Virus Crisis Bringing Young Viewers to Local Broadcast

During the first two weeks of March as the coronavirus crisis deepened, more young adults tuned into broadcast TV, including local newscasts, according to a report by the Television Bureau of Advertising.

As ratings for broadcast TV have eroded, the losses have been sharpest among young viewers in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic. Young viewers are also not usually associated with TV news, which is often sold to advertisers based on viewing by 25- to 54-year-olds.

According to data from Nielsen, live viewing of local news in the top 25 markets was up 52% in the first week of March among 18- to 34-year-olds compared to the same week in 2019, and up 83% in the second week of March.

For weekday evening news, viewing by young adults was up 68% the first week of March and 106% the second week of March.

In primetime, viewing in the 18-34 demo was up 24% the first week of March and up 41% the second week of March.

The increase in broadcast ratings among young viewers comes as live sporting events have been canceled because of the coronavirus crisis. Sports is a key vehicle media buyers use to reach young viewers for their clients. The TVB hopes buyers consider broadcast as they try to figure out how to invest ad dollars aimed at reaching young viewers in the absence of live sports events.

The TVB also pointed to a study conducted by GfK that showed that 71% of 18- to 34-year-olds trust what they see on local broadcast TV news. That compares to 61% for the network broadcast news and 53% for cable news channels.

Local station websites were trusted by 61% of 18- to 34-year-olds. That topped national and local newspaper websites, network news websites, radio websites, cable TV websites. all other internet news sites and social media.

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.