April 7, 2020
Nothing like a pandemic to get Americans crowded around the television again.
New data from Comscore indicates much higher ratings for local TV stations during COVID-19, driven in part by a much broader demographic representation of viewers than is typically observed during news segments.
Viewership was up 38% through March 22 for the 18- to 34-year-old demo compared with the previous-year period; there was a 35% increase for the 35-54 age group.
Across all households in the top 25 markets, Comscore observed a 13% increase in viewing from the week of March 9 compared with the week of March 16, and a 33% increase from the week of March 18 in the previous year.
Looking first at households with adults ages 50 and older, these homes saw increases in viewership compared to both weeks — up 12% viewing increase from the week of March 9 to March 16, and a 29% increase over the previous year’s week of March 18. Surprisingly, households with adults ages 18-34 showed the largest increase in viewership from the same week in 2019.
Across the top 25 markets, Comscore examined viewership among households in three income groups: $0-$74,999 yearly household income, $75,000-$99,999 yearly household income and $100,000+ yearly household income.
Local news viewership jumped significantly from the same week in 2019, especially among middle-earning households in the $75,000-$99,999 yearly income range, which saw a 50% increase in viewership.
“American households are watching more and more local news across key demographic segments,” Bill Livek, CEO, Comscore, said in a statement.
Looking at overall increase in average audience rather than the percentage increase, Comscore found that local news viewing in the top 25 markets increased by well over a million households making between $0 and $100,000 each year compared to this time in 2019.
The $75k-$100k income group constitutes the smallest population of these three income breaks, only making up about 15 million households nationally, which is why it constitutes the largest percentage increase among the other income breaks, yet the smallest gross increase. However, these households were likely among those most impacted by stay-at-home mandates and the closure of non-essential businesses.
Looking at individual communities, Seattle and New York showed lower-than-average week-over-week increases than the national average when comparing the week of March 16 to the week of March 9. This is understandable as these regions were hit early and hardest by the coronavirus. During the week of March 16, viewing increases were most dramatic in San Francisco, Dallas, and other Midwest metropolitan areas.
Changes in television viewership during the coronavirus pandemic can also be observed among Hispanic and Asian-American households. The increases were significantly higher when looking at the week of March 16 compared to the previous year. Viewing among Hispanic households is up 42%, while viewing in Asian households increased 62%.
Compared to the same week in 2019, there are an average of around two million more households tuned in to local newscasts in the top 25 television markets. Nearly half a million of these new viewing homes are Hispanic households.