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Fact Sheet

June 25, 2019

Local TV News Fact Sheet

    MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA

    While television remains the most common place for Americans to get their news, with local TV outpacing cable and network TV, local TV news saw its audience decline across all time slots studied this past year. Financially, local TV companies generated more revenue in 2018 than in 2017, consistent with a cyclical pattern in which revenue rises in election years and falls in non-election years. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about local TV news below.

    Audience

    In 2018, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.), evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late night (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) – according to Comscore StationView Essentials® data. The average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the morning news time slot decreased 10% in 2018. Local TV average audience for the late night and evening news time slots also declined (14% for both). Audience for the midday news (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and prime news (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) time slots both declined 19%.

    Previous versions of this fact sheet included audience data stretching back to 2007. That data is available in the 2017 archived fact sheet.

    Average audience for local TV news

    • Key time slots
    • Midday and prime

    Economics

    Local TV station revenue typically follows a cyclical pattern: It increases in election years and decreases in non-election years. In 2018, an election year, local TV over-the-air advertising revenue totaled $19.3 billion, a 12% increase over 2017, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. In comparison, local TV advertising revenue in the two most recent election years was $19.8 billion (2016) and $19.3 billion (2014).

    Total digital advertising revenue for local TV stations increased 14% in 2018 (reaching a total of about $1.2 billion). Digital advertising revenue accounts for less than 10% of total ad revenue.

    Advertising revenue for 829 local TV stations defined as “news-producing stations” (i.e., stations that have a news director and are viable, commercial and English-language affiliates in the U.S.) was $15.8 billion, 82% of the total $19.3 billion revenue for the local TV industry overall, according to the BIA Advisory Services database.

    Advertising revenue for local TV

    Year Digital Over-the-air
    2004 $22,400,000,000
    2005 $21,000,000,000
    2006 $22,800,000,000
    2007 $21,542,700,000
    2008 $20,621,200,000
    2009 $15,768,500,000
    2010 $400,000,000 $18,661,700,000
    2011 $534,750,000 $17,159,700,000
    2012 $625,870,000 $19,517,400,000
    2013 $695,790,000 $17,720,300,000
    2014 $819,840,000 $19,300,100,000
    2015 $911,290,000 $17,803,800,000
    2016 $1,005,660,000 $19,821,600,000
    2017 $1,035,140,000 $17,207,100,000
    2018 $1,181,850,000 $19,270,300,000
    2019* $1,344,670,000 $17,229,300,000
    2020* $1,509,130,000 $18,729,700,000
    2021* $1,679,900,000 $17,327,900,000
    2022* $1,859,310,000 $18,397,800,000
    2023* $2,049,830,000 $17,553,100,000

    Pew Research Center

    Revenue from retransmission fees – the fees paid by cable and satellite systems to carry local channels – has been increasing rapidly in the past decade, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group in S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2018, retransmission revenue reached almost $10.2 billion, up from $9.4 billion in 2017; Kagan projects that this figure will reach $12.2 billion by 2023.

    Retransmission fee revenue for U.S. local TV stations

    Year Revenue
    2006 $215,000,000
    2007 $314,000,000
    2008 $502,000,000
    2009 $762,000,000
    2010 $1,246,000,000
    2011 $1,776,000,000
    2012 $2,408,000,000
    2013 $3,620,000,000
    2014 $4,857,000,000
    2015 $6,423,000,000
    2016 $7,979,000,000
    2017 $9,374,000,000
    2018 $10,173,000,000
    2019* $10,768,000,000
    2020* $11,249,000,000
    2021* $11,586,000,000
    2022* $11,888,000,000
    2023* $12,161,000,000

    Pew Research Center

    Six major publicly held local TV station companies – Tribune, Nexstar, Sinclair, Tegna, Gray and Scripps – report political advertising revenue separately from other types of revenues in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. In 2018, the six companies reported a total of $1.2 billion in political advertising revenue, compared with $843 million in 2016 and $696 million in 2014, the two most recent election years. (Data points for 2012 to 2016 also include Media General, which was purchased by Nexstar in 2017.)

    Political advertising revenue at local TV companies

    Year Revenue
    2012 $573,591,000
    2013 $49,880,000
    2014 $696,482,000
    2015 $124,451,000
    2016 $842,737,000
    2017 $111,612,000
    2018 $1,202,996,000

    Pew Research Center

    Newsroom investment

    Roughly 29,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers or film and video editors in broadcast TV newsrooms in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. Median wages for editors in 2018 were about $57,000, while for reporters the figure was about $55,000. For film and video editors and camera operators, the median wage was about $50,000. Photographers had a median wage of about $46,000. (Broadcast TV newsroom employment and wage data includes both national and local TV broadcasters. For details, see the methodology.)

    Employment in broadcast TV newsrooms

    • Employment
    • Wages

    The average amount of weekday local TV news programming was increased slightly in 2018, according to the RTDNA/Hofstra University survey. Local TV stations dedicated an average of 5.9 hours to news programming per weekday in 2018, up slightly from 5.6 hours in 2017.

    Number of hours dedicated to local TV news

    Year Hours
    2003 3.7
    2004 3.6
    2005 3.8
    2006 4.1
    2007 4.1
    2008 4.6
    2009 5.0
    2010 5.3
    2011 5.5
    2012 5.4
    2013 5.3
    2014 5.3
    2015 5.5
    2016 5.7
    2017 5.6
    2018 5.9

    Pew Research Center

    Ownership

    In 2018, 144 local TV stations changed hands at a cost of $8.8 billion, as annually reported by BIA Advisory Services. This is up from $4.7 billion across 107 stations that experienced changes in ownership in 2017.)

    Mergers and acquisitions of local TV stations

    Year Revenue
    2000 $8,800,000,000
    2001 $4,900,000,000
    2002 $2,529,000,000
    2003 $520,000,000
    2004 $872,000,000
    2005 $2,842,000,000
    2006 $18,127,000,000
    2007 $2,899,000,000
    2008 $537,000,000
    2009 $714,000,000
    2010 $199,000,000
    2011 $1,102,000,000
    2012 $1,891,000,000
    2013 $9,712,000,000
    2014 $4,616,000,000
    2015 $670,000,000
    2016 $5,280,000,000
    2017 $4,684,000,000
    2018 $8,800,000,000

    Pew Research Center

    Find out more

    This fact sheet was compiled by Associate Director Katerina Eva Matsa and Sophia Fedeli, who was a Research Assistant at Pew Research Center in 2018 and 2019.

    Read the methodology.

    Find more in-depth explorations of local TV news by following the links below: