Local TV Spikes As COVID-19 News Source

Nielsen analyzed viewing data across its Local People Meter markets, which are 25 of the largest local markets. For persons aged 2 and older, local news experienced a 7% viewership lift between early February and the week of March 9. Among persons 25-54, the spike was higher, at more than 10%. Perhaps most interesting however, is that the lift among younger persons aged 2-17 was 20%.

As concerns and restrictions around the coronavirus heighten in the U.S., consumers are gravitating to local news outlets to stay informed about the impact of the pandemic on their communities. While the U.S. began to experience the impact later than other parts of the world, a recent Nielsen analysis highlights a notable spike in local news viewing between early February and early March.

Viewing data was analyzed across Nielsen’s Local People Meter (LPM) markets, which are 25 of the largest local markets as defined by Nielsen’s Local TV Household Universe Estimates. For persons aged two and older, local news experienced a 7% viewership lift between early February and the week of March 9. Among persons 25-54, the spike was higher, at more than 10%. Perhaps most interesting however, is that the lift among younger persons aged 2-17 was 20%.

“Non-adults have typically contributed very little to the profile of local news viewing,” said Justin LaPorte, VP, local audience insights, Nielsen. “In the week of March 9, however, when schools across the U.S. began to move to in-home learning, 25-54s added more local news to their daily routines. As a result, there was more viewing among non-adults.”

Average Local News Viewing Trends by Age Group

Demo Week of 2-3-2020 Week of 3-9-2020 % Chg 3/9 vs 2/3 Act Chg 3/9 vs 2/3
P2+ 1,407,889 1,505,046 6.9% 97,157
P2-17 60,803 73,207 20.4% 12,404
P18-24 40,687 44,412 9.2% 3,725
P25-54 430,940 474,502 10.1% 43,562
P55+ 875,459 912,925 4.3% 37,466

Live+SD Major broadcast = ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, TEL, UNIV, CW, IND (top rated independent in each market). Persons impressions, sum across 25 LPM markets.

Based on historic human behavior during crises, the rise in local news viewing is not surprising. As COVID-19 began its spread across the U.S., rising local news viewership tracked alongside the regions where the most cases have been reported. The West Coast was hit earlier than other regions, and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Seattle had the most significant increases in local news viewing. During the analyzed period, local news viewing among people 25-54 was up 38% in San Francisco; news viewing in LA increased 25% among the same age group.

With America at home and flocking to local TV for news in this crisis, this may present a unique opportunity for advertisers to demonstrate their brand value.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Average Viewership Among P25-54 in Top 10 Local Markets

LPM Market Week of 2-3-2020 Week of 3-9-2020 % Chg 3/9 vs 2/3 Act Chg 3/9 vs 2/3
San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 11,560 15,966 38.1% 4,406
Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 6,551 8,264 26.1% 1,713
Los Angeles 39,361 49,321 25.3% 9,960
Seattle-Tacoma 10,934 13,425 22.8% 2,491
Boston (Manchester) 13,500 16,552 22.6% 3,052
Philadelphia 19,160 22,687 18.4% 3,527
Detroit 23,218 26,928 16.0% 3,710
Baltimore 10,303 11,938 15.9% 1,635
Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 7,326 8,289 13.1% 963
New York 45,012 50,759 12.8% 5,747

Live+SD; Major broadcast = ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, TEL, UNIV, CW, IND (top rated independent in each market). Persons impressions, P25-54 impressions. 

As with any crisis, consumer behavior is quick to shift as disruptions unfold and evolve. And as concerns around COVID-19 heighten, the viewing behavior of people 25-54, a key selling demo for local advertisers, is shifting as well. Across the full complement of genres people are watching across major broadcast networks in the LPM markets, a few genres are benefiting more than others.

Local news definitely stands out, almost gaining five share points for P25-54 viewing in total to broadcast, increasing to 30.9% of all quarter-hours tuned across broadcast the week of March 9. General Drama, Participation Variety, Situation Comedy and Feature Film have also seen notable gains in their share of overall broadcast viewership.

P25-54 Share of Total Gross Quarter-Hours

Viewed Across Major Broadcast Channels by Program Genre


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