Local News Spikes as Viewers Seek Latest on COVID-19

Local news is seeking an increase in viewing as people seek the latest information on the Coronavirus crisis.

In a new report, Nielsen says that news viewing in the top 25 markets was up 6.9% for the week of March 9, compared to the week of Feb. 3.

Different age groups showed different levels of increase. People 25 to 54, the traditional news demographic, were up 10.1%. Younger adults in the 18 to 24 year old range, were up 9.2%. The smallest increase--4.3%-- came among those 55 and up.

Surprisingly, the biggest increase was among youngsters age 2 to 17 with a 20.4% bump.

“Non-adults have typically contributed very little to the profile of local news viewing,” said Justin LaPorte, VP, Local Audience Insights, at Nielsen. ”In the week of March 9, however, when schools across the U.S. began to move to in-home learning, 25-54s added more local news to their daily routines. As a result, there was more viewing among non-adults.”

All of the top 10 markets showed double-digit increases among adults 25-54. The biggest gain was in the San Francisco market, where viewing was up 38.1%. The second biggest increase was in Orlando, up 25.1%, followed by Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston.

The smallest increase among the top 10 markets was in New York, the No. 1 market and the place with the most Coronavirus cases.

Across the top 25 markets, where Nielsen employs its local people meters to collect viewing data, most broadcast viewing showed increases, led by local news. Local news had a 30.9% share, up 5 share points from Feb. 3. Broadcast dramas, participation variety shows, situation comedies and feature films all increase their share of total viewing.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.