The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University survey of the state of broadcast news shows stable-to-better results. You might think that is not saying much, but I do, given the enormous impact digital media have had on all the so-called legacy media over the past two decades.Just look at the train wreck that is newspaper publishing. More stations are producing news with more people earning more money.
The RTDNA and Hofstra University this week released the last installment of their annual survey of news directors and general managers on local broadcast news. Like the earlier nine 2015 installments, the report is filled with table, graphics, percentages and decimal points.
So, what does all that data (and some comparisons to the 2010 survey results) say about the state of local TV news?
That things are OK. “Stable” would be another word for it.
You might think that is not saying much, but I do, given the enormous impact digital media have had on all the so-called legacy media over the past two decades. It’s hard to look at the wreck that is newspaper publishing.
The number of stations producing news has declined since 2010, going from 762 to 717 with Big Three affiliates leading the way. However, more stations are actually broadcasting news. In 2010, RTDNA/Hofstra found 986 stations offering news. In the latest report, the number is up to 1,045.
That 328 more stations air news than produce it attests to the popularity of duopolies and news sharing arrangements.
Since 2010, local TV news has been able to withstand the digital onslaught and it may be able to continue doing so. What scares me is the FCC. Between the incentive auction and its crackdown on sharing arrangements, the agency may knock our scores (hundreds?) of stations now offering news, if not necessarily producing it.
The stations are producing more hours of news each week, but not as much as I would have guessed in light of the proliferation of early morning newscasts. In 2010, stations produced five hours a news per hour. In 2015, the figure is 5.3.
Another indication of the overall health — and stability — of local TV news can be found in the surveys’ results on newsroom staffing and pay.
The average number of fulltime employees has risen from 34.5 in 2010 to 37.9. So, if management is demanding that newsrooms produce more TV news, while keeping the websites and social media lively and current, at least it is also giving them an extra 3.4 people to do it. It’s funny how every news director can identify the .4 producer on the staff.
RTDNA/Hofstra estimates that TV newsroom now employ 27,600. That’s up significantly from 26,286 in 2010, which I calculated by multiplying 34.5 (average employees) times 762 (news producing stations).
Few would say that management is overly generous, but wages have gone up 12.5% between 2005 and 2010, outpacing inflation of 8.6% over the five years, according to RTDNA/Hofstra.
Management might consider doing a bit better by its workers. After all, according to RTDNA/Hofstra, news is increasingly important to the business. The average percentage of total revenue from news has risen from 44.7% in 2010 to 51.8% in 2015.
To put things in perspective and give you perhaps a jolt of schadenfreude, let’s take a look at that wreck that is newspaper publishing.
According to the latest survey of the American Society of News Editors, results of which were also released this week, newsroom employment at some 1,400 daily papers dropped more than 10% from the year before, from 36,700 to 32,900. In 2010, the newspaper workforce stood at 41,500.
More evidence of the general well-being of local TV news came in April courtesy of the Pew Research Center. Crunching Nielsen numbers, it found that viewership of morning news grew 2% and evening news grew 3%. The late news, however, was off 1%.
At Fox affiliates, the results were not so uniform. While mornings newscasts were up 5%, the late news, typically an hour at 10 p.m., was down 4%. The late news is down 17% since 2010.
Certainly, local TV is not immune from the disruptive forces of digital. But, so far, judging from the numbers, it is more than hanging in there.
In fact, come Monday morning, the counter of news producing stations will go up by one.
As our Paul Greeley reported today on his Market Share blog, DuJuan McCoy is launching news on WEVV, the CBS and Fox affiliate in Evansville, Ind., which he bought from Nexstar last year for $18.6 million.
McCoy wants to serve the community and all that, but it’s really about business, he told us in an interview last fall. ”Evansville is close to a $40 million TV market and $16 million of that market is spent on news.
“If you don’t have news, you can’t compete for that $16 million. So when I start up [a news operation], I have an opportunity now to play in a pond that I wasn’t allowed to play in before because I didn’t have the product.”
Welcome to the fray, news producing station No. 718.
P.S. Last week in this space, I made the case for why broadcasting was still the most powerful TV medium, that if you wanted to reach the widest possible audience, you didn’t fool around with cable or anything digital.
More evidence came my way in the form of a press release from Bounce TV, the diginet that claims to be the fastest growing African-America network. Over the past nine weeks, it says, Bounce TV beat cable’s venerable BET in total day delivery in the 18-49 demo six times and in the 25-54 demo 13 times.
Even on a subchannel, broadcasting gives you an edge.