TV News Drawing Viewers as Election Nears: Nielsen

(Image credit: Nielsen)

With an election coming up and a pandemic raging, TV news viewership was up 23% in September from a year ago, according to Nielsen’s latest Local Watch Report.

TV news watching peaked at just under 9½ hours per week in April when many American stayed at home in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

In September they were watching news for 7 hour and 5 minutes, which represented 35% of all TV viewing. Nielsen said cable news generated 3:26 of viewing in September, up from 2:54 in January 2019, local news accounted for 2:23 in September, down from 2:32 in January 2019 and 1:16 went to national broadcast news, down from 1:21.

While Boomers and members of the Greatest Generation watch the most news, the growth in news consumption is being driven by increases among 18 to 34 year olds. Viewing by those young adults was up 134% between 2019 and 2020, according to Nielsen. By comparison viewing was up 63% among persons in the 25 to 54 demographic and 37% among those 55 plus.

Local TV news had more weekly reach than national broadcast and cable news. Among persons 18-plus, local reached 54%, national broadcast reached 42% and cable news reached 31%.

“More and more, as we navigate through COVID-19, unprecedented political and social unrest, unpredictable weather events, and now a big resurgence in sports, we go to the news to get local information that we trust,” Justin Laporte VP, Local Insights.

Among 18 to 34 year olds, local news reached 30%, national broadcast reached 22% and cable garnered 14%.

In addition, news viewers are becoming more diverse with Hispanic, Black and Asian viewers consuming 66%, 58% and 86% more respectively.

Nielsen also did a study of people working from home because of COVID-19 and found that 64% of people working from home watch local TV news, 62% watch national broadcast TV news and 58% watch cable TV news.

“Why do remote workers rely on local news? Among other things, it gives them local content, information they can trust, and connection to their communities, said Nielsen’s LaPorte.

The top city for time spent watching TV news was West Palm Beach, Fla., with 13:19. The rest of the top 10 were Ft. Myers, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; Norfolk, Va.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Greenville, S.C. and Detroit.

Local news had the biggest reach in New Orleans, Tulsa and Greenville, S.C. 

(Image credit: Nielsen)
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.