Why Loyalty and Engagement Drive TV News Ratings

A study released at CES 2015 found that 53% of consumers believe that mobile will replace TV in the next eight years as the most common way to consume content. Nearly a third of that group thought the change will come much sooner. However, that’s not going happen when it comes to TV news.

News “junkies" who follow events all day long necessarily require different devices to do that while out of home and on the move. But that said, half of U.S. viewers follow news and current events either in the morning or evening only, and 90% of them feed that habit via television.

In recent years loyalty to one particular device or another has been shifting and accelerating. Loyalty to particular news shows has been slower to shift, but there have been shifts, and new broadcasters in particular have been battling for every viewer day and night.

It isn’t just a numbers game (although that’s how scores are kept), it's a matter of what loyalty and engagement engenders. Primarily, it has been proven to always result in better consumer behavior toward a brand. And that better behavior comes with something Brand Keys calls “The Rule of Six.”

The “Rule of Six” is an independently validated archetype that has many benefits for brands. But translated into broadcast news consequences there are three critical outcomes.

First, a loyal and engaged viewer is six times less likely to switch channels. Second, a loyal and engaged viewer is six times more likely to recommend a show versus the competition. Oh, and six times less likely to change their viewing platform paradigm, i.e., in this instance use a device other than a TV.

According to the 2015 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) — which examines 64 B2B and B2C categories encompassing 550 brands including morning and evening news shows — and identifies how well a brand meets or exceeds consumer expectations on the drivers that describe their ideal in the category — here’s how news shows currently rank:

Morning News Shows

1.      Good Morning America (ABC)
2.      Today (NBC)
3.      This Morning (CBS)
4.      Fox & Friends (Fox News Channel)
5.      New Day (CNN)
6.      Morning Joe (MSNBC)

Evening News Shows By Network

1.      ABC
2.      NBC
3.      CBS
4.      FOX
5.      CNN
6.      MSNBC
7.      CNBC

What drives these ratings? Perhaps not surprisingly, being a “Trustworthy News Brand” is the most critical element that drives viewer loyalty and engagement for morning and evening news shows. That’s followed by “Host Reputation” for evening news shows and “Entertaining and Trustworthy Host” for morning news shows.

NBC had been the traditional leader in the Evening News Show category, but we suspect that the Brian Williams “puffery” debacle had something to do with NBC’s recent downgrade to second spot due to some significant viewer bonding on both those drivers. “Commentary and Insights” and “Credible and Engaging Guests and Features” describe the remaining loyalty and engagement drivers, but it’s worth remembering that a brand needs to reasonably meet expectations on all the drivers to successfully compete in the category.

Someone once offered up the thought that anyone who relies exclusively on television for their news and their knowledge of the world is making a serious mistake. That may become true in the next half decade, but according to the current numbers, TV news is still alive and well and meeting many viewer expectations better than a lot of other platforms.

Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys, the brand research consultancy that specializes in predictive consumer behavior, loyalty and engagement metrics. He has more than 35 years of agency and client experience in all phases of strategic brand planning and is the creator of the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.