Pew: Cable News Most Engaging

WASHINGTON — For the heaviest consumers of news, national cable news is more engaging than local or national broadcast news, and it isn’t even a contest.

That was a key takeaway from a new Pew Research Center Journalism Project report based on exclusive Nielsen data about in-home news viewing supplied to the project. “Even at a time of fragmenting media use, television remains the dominant way that Americans get news at home,” the study said, but cable appears to have the most staying power when it comes to keeping those eyeballs engaged. Or, as the report puts it, “There is no news junkie like a cable junkie.”

The heaviest “users” of local- TV news watch about 22 minutes a day — or about a half-hour newscast’s worth, minus commercials. The heaviest network TV news watchers — viewers of morning and evening newscasts — watch 32 minutes a day, while cable’s heaviest viewers watch a whopping 72 minutes a day.

For overall news viewing at home — with the minimum threshold defined as watching at least 6 consecutive minutes a month — broadcasting is clearly dominant: 71% watch some local TV news, 65% watch network TV news, and 38% watch cable. “But what is more interesting is how much time they spend daily with each one of those platforms,” Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Journalism Project, said.

On average, people watch about 12 minutes a day of broadcast news, he said, but 25 minutes a day watching cable news.

Pew based its study on Nielsen People Meter data from roughly 20,000 homes and 15,000 viewers 18 or older between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.