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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.)
Find out more
Read the methodology.
Find more in-depth explorations of local TV news by following the links below:
- For Local News, Americans Embrace Digital but Still Want Strong Community Connection, March 26, 2019
- Interactive: What are the local news dynamics in your city? March 26, 2019
- Americans Still Prefer Watching to Reading the News – and Mostly Still Through Television, Dec. 3, 2018
- Fewer Americans rely on TV news; what type they watch varies by who they are, Jan. 5, 2018
- Americans’ online news use is closing in on TV news use, Sept. 7, 2017
- Buying spree brings more local TV stations to fewer big companies, May 11, 2017
- Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News, Jan. 18, 2017