Fact Sheet

July 13, 2021

Local TV News Fact Sheet

    MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA

    Television remains a common place for Americans to get their news, with local TV on par with or outpacing cable and network TV. In 2020, local TV news saw its audience increase across the evening and late night time slots. Financially, local TV companies generated more revenue in 2020 than in 2019, consistent with a cyclical pattern in which revenue rises in election years and falls in non-election years. Explore patterns and longitudinal data in local TV news below.

    Audience

    In 2020, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) increased in two key time slots – evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late night (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) – according to Comscore StationView Essentials® data. Local TV average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the late night and evening news time slots both increased by 4%. The average audience for the morning news time slot (6 a.m. to 9 a.m) decreased 4% in 2020. Audience for the midday news time slot (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) increased 10% in 2020, while the average audience for the prime news time slot (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) decreased by 5%.

    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 2020, an election year, local TV over-the-air advertising revenue totaled $18.4 billion, an 8% increase over 2019, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data.

    Total digital advertising revenue for local TV stations increased 6% in 2020, reaching a total of about $1.4 billion. Digital advertising revenue accounted for 7% of total ad revenue.

    Revenue for the 839 local TV stations defined as “news-producing stations” (stations that have a news director and are viable, commercial and are English-language affiliates in the U.S.) was $15.3 billion, 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 $17,221,600,000
    2012 $625,870,000 $19,612,800,000
    2013 $695,790,000 $17,772,200,000
    2014 $819,840,000 $19,371,900,000
    2015 $914,460,000 $17,852,300,000
    2016 $1,009,480,000 $19,877,200,000
    2017 $1,037,830,000 $17,218,000,000
    2018 $1,184,820,000 $19,468,800,000
    2019 $1,316,660,000 $17,082,800,000
    2020 $1,401,800,000 $18,377,300,000
    2021* $1,542,550,000 $14,934,000,000
    2022* $1,697,300,000 $17,855,700,000
    2023* $1,836,300,000 $15,387,700,000
    2024* $2,005,400,000 $18,759,900,000
    2025* $2,171,600,000 $15,482,200,000

    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, though the rate of growth has slowed recently, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2019, retransmission revenue reached $11.9 billion, up from $11.1 billion in 2018 and $9.5 billion in 2017. Kagan projects that this figure will reach $13.3 billion by 2025.

    Retransmission fee revenue for U.S. local TV stations

    Year Revenue
    2006 $214,600,000
    2007 $314,300,000
    2008 $502,300,000
    2009 $769,400,000
    2010 $1,259,500,000
    2011 $1,800,600,000
    2012 $2,443,300,000
    2013 $3,669,400,000
    2014 $4,928,000,000
    2015 $6,517,600,000
    2016 $8,079,500,000
    2017 $9,523,400,000
    2018 $11,062,200,000
    2019 $11,887,000,000
    2020* $12,166,300,000
    2021* $12,427,100,000
    2022* $12,636,800,000
    2023* $12,909,800,000
    2024* $13,162,700,000
    2025* $13,331,700,000

    Pew Research Center

    Five major publicly held local TV station companies – Gray, Nexstar, Scripps, Sinclair and Tegna – report political advertising revenue separately from other types of revenues in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. In 2020, the five companies reported a total of $2 billion in political advertising revenue, compared with $1.2 billion in 2018 and $843 million in 2016, the two most recent election years. (These five companies were once seven, but this reduction is due to two mergers – Nexstar purchased Media General in 2017 and Tribune in 2019.)

    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
    2019 $212,130,000
    2020 $2,014,282,000

    Pew Research Center

    Newsroom investment

    Roughly 30,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or television, film and video editors or operators in broadcast TV newsrooms in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. Median wages for editors in 2020 were about $60,000, while for reporters the figure was about $56,000. For television, film and video editors and camera operators, the median wage was about $55,000. Photographers had a median wage of about $50,000. (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 increased slightly in 2020, according to the RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University survey. Local TV stations dedicated an average of 6.2 hours to news programming per weekday in 2020, up slightly from 5.9 hours in 2018 and 2019.

    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
    2019 5.9
    2020 6.2

    Pew Research Center

    Ownership

    In 2020, 189 local TV stations changed hands at a cost of $3.6 billion, as annually reported by BIA Advisory Services. This is down from $6.5 billion across 102 stations that experienced changes in ownership in 2019.

    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
    2019 $6,500,000,000
    2020 $3,600,000,000

    Pew Research Center

    Find out more

    This fact sheet was compiled by Associate Director Katerina Eva Matsa and Research Assistant Jacob Liedke.

    Read the methodology.

    Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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