News Viewing Rises 6% in 2017, Analyst Says

With a new president generating a lot of attention, news viewing rose 6% in 2017, according to an analysis of Nielsen figures by analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.

Sports viewing declined 12% in a year without the Olympics. Removing the Olympics from the equation, sports viewing was still down 6%, Wieser said in a report Wednesday (Jan. 3).

News and sports are key categories for TV, accounting for about 23% of all viewing, based on live-plus-same-day metrics. Those two categories are mostly viewed live, as opposed to entertainment programming, which is increasingly viewed on a delayed basis or on demand.

“News is important for media owners because of the absolute scale of the genre, its potential for profitability, the political influence that follows from these divisions and because of the significant growth they have recorded in recent periods,” Wieser said.

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In the news segment, Weiser said NBCU’s MSNBC was the biggest beneficiary of the surge in news viewing, gaining 49%. Fox News Channel viewership grew 8%, and CNN rose 4%. Overall, viewing of the three big cable news networks was up 15%.

The big three broadcast networks’ news programming was down 7%.

Among individual shows, ABC’s Good Morning America was most popular, but was down 12% year over year. The second most popular news show was Fox News’s Fox & Friends, which was up 25%.

"In contrast to news, sports has struggled generally, although the genre still remains an important source of viewing of traditional TV," Wieser said. "In aggregate, it represents an outsized source of costs, revenues and strategic leverage between networks and distributors."

Disney networks, including ESPN, accounted for 33% of all sports viewing; nonetheless, sports viewing on Disney-owned nets was down 8% despite a 1% increase in programming hours.

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NBCU properties accounted for 16% of sports viewing and were down 39% because of the absence of Olympic programming. Viewing was down 11% on average in non-Olympic weeks on NBCU networks.

Fox-owned networks had a 21% share of sports viewing, and average viewership was up 13%, thanks in part to the Super Bowl.

Football accounted for 42% of sports viewing, with NFL programming generating 27% of total consumption. NFL viewing was down 8% despite 9% more programming hours. College football programming accounted for 12% of consumption and was flat year to year.

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.