Local TV Main Source Of Hurricane Info

A new Hearst Television survey finds people in Baltimore, Boston and Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y., depended on local stations for their weather information during Hurricane Irene.

A new survey finds that adults in selected communities affected by Hurricane Irene were extremely engaged with tracking the storm’s path, impact and aftermath — and local broadcast television was by far their preferred source for news updates and other information.

The survey, conducted for Hearst Television Inc. by Marshall Marketing, included respondents in three television markets, served by Hearst stations, which were significantly affected by flooding and other damage from the hurricane:  Baltimore, Boston and Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y.

In terms of adults’ sources of information on Irene in the affected markets:

  • Local TV ranked first — at 39% — among news sources selected by respondents when asked “Where did you first learn Hurricane Irene was approaching your area?” The Internet ranked a distant second, at 16%; all other news sources were cited by 11% or fewer respondents.


  • When asked, “While tracking Hurricane Irene, where were you getting key or critical information about the storm or weather?” 66% cited local TV news.


  • The Hearst television stations — WBAL Baltimore, WCVB Boston and WPTZ-WNNE Burlington-Plattsburgh — were most often cited by respondents in these markets when asked “While tracking Hurricane Irene, where were you getting key or critical information about the storm or weather?” and “Which local television station did you watch most often for Hurricane Irene coverage?” 



  • Similarly, these stations’ websites were cited as the most-used local-TV sites. Additionally, an average of more than 95% of viewers responded that they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the Hearst stations’ coverage.

Households losing power (40% of all respondents) continued to track the storm via means other than local TV and returned overwhelmingly to local TV when power was restored:

  • A large portion of respondents indicated that, while they were without power, they turned to the radio for information.
  • In Baltimore, Hearst’s WBAL-AM was by far the most popularly used radio station in that market, more than doubling the response rate of the No. 2 station.
  • In total among all the markets, 16% listened to a TV broadcast on the radio.
  • Once power was restored, 50% said they returned to local TV news as their information source, followed distantly by the Internet (14%).


Mobile technology played an important role in keeping communities informed:


  • 30% of adults received an alert on a mobile device, led by use of weather apps.
  • When asked, “If you received an alert from a local TV station, which station was it?” the Hearst station was cited by the most respondents in each market, by a significant margin.

Among the broader findings, 85% of all adults in these markets were tracking Irene as it impacted their region; 54% said they were “very prepared” for the storm; 42% said they were “somewhat prepared.” When asked, “What would you do differently the next time a hurricane or storms are headed for your area?” the No. 1 and No. 2 responses were “Nothing” (44%), and “Make sure I have more batteries in the house” (24%).

The survey was conducted Sept. 19-22 and included 1,400 respondents — 500 each in Baltimore (DMA 27) and Boston (DMA 7), and 400 in Burlington-Plattsburgh (DMA 95). It was conducted for Hearst Television by the marketing intelligence firm Marshall Marketing & Communications.

The complete survey results can be found here.

Comments (4)

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Christina Perez says:

October 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Another reason local stations should make viewers aware that over-the-air TV remains free and available to hand-held portable TVs equipped with ATSC DTV m/h chips. Many Americans don’t know this, and many think that the transition to DTV ended OTA broadcast TV. Some cable companies helped perpetuate this disinformation with deceptive advertising that made viewers think that HDTV is available only via cable.

    Christina Perez says:

    October 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Also a reason why mobile DTV chips should be installed in all cellphones. Of course standard ATSC DTV works with portable sets as long as they’re not in motion, but today’s mobile society wants TV on mobile devices, whether proprietary sets like the new RCA/MyGoTV lines, or installed in cellphones. Not a single cellphone on the market contains the ATSC m/h chip. Why?

Gregg Palermo says:

October 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm

But hardly justification for multiple broadcasters per market, pumping out a TV signal to 8 percent of homes. I can see the need for one over-the-air signal per market, for emergencies, but the FCC should auction the remaining bandwidth to cell phone carriers. Let the other stations do an STL deal with local cable or satellite. Broadcasting is so 1962.

    jeff lee says:

    October 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    The percentage varies between markets and is on the increase in this crummy economy. What you propose would mean everyone who can pay…can play (or watch). The hell with those who can’t afford it. 1962? Broadcasting started long before that. Why should I pay for multiple channels from cable or satellite that have reruns on them and are full of commercials?

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