Local news hurting but profitable


Affiliates of all four major networks are experiencing declines in viewership of their local news offerings, according to Nielsen research, and although some in the industry fault Nielsen, at least one watchdog attests to the validity of the trend. Nevertheless, the cash is still flowing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer took a look at its broadcast competition, and the numbers. It said that both of the main local news time slots, 6PM and 10PM/11PM, are experiencing erosion, and laid the blame in several directions. One big one the internet, which allows people to find information instantly without waiting for a television station's schedule to cycle around to its news programming.

Another is that there is fatigue with the "if it bleeds, it leads" police-blotter style of some local newscasts. Another big reason is increasingly grueling commutes, which make it impossible for some to make it home in time for the early evening edition, and which inspires others to go to be before the late edition so they can rise early the next morning. Using the remote for some channel surfing also may be a factor. Nevertheless, since the programming belongs to the station, the station gets all the revenue, and local TV remains a major source of news for the average American.

SmartMedia observation: Like all other so-called traditional media, local news will have to keep evolving. Not everything is readily available on the web. And the web can be used as a major enhancer of on-air product, and the upcoming DTV revolution should offer many opportunities for growth. If there was ever a time to think ahead, it is now.