National TV News Trends – Viewing +26% -- Pivotal Research

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Cover image for  article: National TV News Trends – Viewing +26% -- Pivotal Research

News is important for media owners because of the absolute scale of the genre, its potential for profitability, the political influence that follows from these divisions and because of the significant growth they have recorded in recent periods. During yet another week with increasingly intense consumer interest in national politics, overall national news viewing rose by +26% on a live+same-day among persons 2-99 basis for the 21st week of 2017, with +57% growth for the big three cable networks and substantial outperformance for MSNBC and CNN in particular and relative under-performance -- but nonetheless significant growth -- from Fox News. In this note we review trends related to news media properties for the week.

Key observations from our analysis of live+same-day viewing of news programming through week 21 of the calendar year (ending Sunday May 21) include another significant acceleration viewing of news programming -- presumably related to increasingly intense interest in national politics. On our broad definition of the genre, viewing amounted to 929mm person-viewing hours during the 21th week of 2017 vs. 739mm person-viewing hours in the year-ago period. YTD viewing of all news-related programming on national media properties was +13%, but was +26% for the week alone.

Notably, looking only at the three biggest cable news networks' -- Fox News, MSNBC and CNN -- viewing was up +57% during the most recent week, and are now +31% YTD. More than all of the gains for news was generated by these three networks, with others collectively declining. English-language broadcast networks' news programming accounted for 26% of viewing, and fell by -7% vs. last year during the week, in-line with year-to-date trends.

Additional observations follow:

  • In context of all news programming, NBCU properties were up significantly vs. others, with the network group's share of viewing rising from 27% to 31%. Fox properties were down slightly, but equal to around 28% in both periods. Time Warner properties were up from 19% to 22%. Share declines occurred at each of CBS and Disney's ABC. Fox property shares are up significantly YTD to 32% vs. 28% at the same point in 2016. NBCU properties were also relatively stable YTD at 28%. Time Warner network audience shares are down YTD, from 21% through week 21 of last year to 19% this year.
  • Trends look different if we only look at the three biggest pure-play networks. On this basis, Fox News lost significant share during the week (declining from 53% to 42%). Meanwhile, MSNBC gained significantly, rising from 22% to 29% share (better than the YTD gains from 20% to 25%) and CNN and rose from 26% to 29% during the week (better than the YTD decline from 28% to 25%).
  • In absolute growth, Fox News was up +25%, MSNBC was up +114% and CNN was up +76%. As with last week, the gap in growth was massive between Fox News and both of MSNBC and CNN.
  • Among primetime personality-driven / opinion programs, CNN's Anderson Cooper was the most highly viewed, with 24.6mm person-viewing hours up from 7.8mm in the year-ago period. Fox News' Tucker Carlson (now in the former time slot held by the Bill O'Reilly) viewing totaled at 22.1mm person-viewing hours, down slightly vs the prior week and not far from the 24.7mm average previous host realized during each week between the second and 15th weeks of the year. Next was MSNBC's Rachel Maddow which aggregated 21.3mm person-viewing hours -- stable sequentially and also more than triple vs. the year-ago period. Fox's The Five came next with 18.5mm viewing hours, up nearly double from their result in the year ago period (although in a different time slot) and relatively stable vs. the prior week. MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell accounted for 17.1mm person-viewing hours, stable vs. the prior week and up 4x last year's level. Fox News' Hannity was next with 16.0mm person-viewing hours up vs.11.9mm last year.
  • Looking at other key news and opinion-related programs airing during mornings, ABC's Good Morning America had 28.5mm person-viewing hours, down slightly vs. the year ago period. NBC's Today Show had 24.5mm person-viewing hours, down vs. 26.9mm in the week 21 of last year. Fox and Friends had 23.9mm person-viewing hours, up +43% year-over-year, while MSNBC's Morning Joe was up +103% to 17.9mm person-viewing hours.


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