This past week the Pew Research Center released an analysis that shows that local broadcast TV continues to be a “most-turned-to” source for news and information for consumers. Given the overall popularity of broadcast TV this is not surprising, but what’s most interesting is that local TV stations are adjusting to a dynamically changing market by airing newscasts in nontraditional time slots – 4:30 am and 7:00 pm – to get viewers to tune in. And, it’s working.
In their analysis, Pew found that in 2014 more than 11.1 million American’s watched their local news at 7:00 pm, representing an 11 percent increase from the year before. Overall viewership for broadcast TV newscasts at 4:30 am was also up six percent last year.
What makes local broadcast TV so important to Americans? For an important part of the answer, one only has to look to the recent on-the-ground emergency lifeline reporting local broadcasters provided to viewers as a powerful tornado ripped through Cameron, IL and severe flooding overwhelmed communities along the Arkansas-Missouri border. It is this kind of commitment to local communities that makes TV broadcasters the most trusted and reliable source for news and emergency information in America.
In addition to the lifeline emergency reporting by local TV stations, it’s clear that primetime network programming shows and live sports only add to broadcast TV’s appeal among consumers.
In today’s fast-paced, broadband and broadcast world, it’s clear that emerging opportunities for U.S. consumers to access local broadcast TV content, including popular primetime network shows, live sporting events, and local news and weather updates, on multiple digital platforms are major contributing factors to consumers’ insatiable appetite for video consumption everywhere, all the time. But that certainly does not mean that traditional television viewing is going away anytime soon.
Recent data shows that Broadcast TV content is still king, with 77 percent (or tens of millions) of U.S. consumers regularly watching scheduled broadcast TV programming and nightly newscasts. Moreover, 75 percent of consumers watch streamed on-demand video, including broadcast TV shows, several times a week. The continuing emergence of over-the-top services will only increase the amount of time consumers are watching broadcast TV content because of its convenience and easy-to-use capabilities that afford consumers cross-platform access to the content of their choice.
Ultimately, consumers’ sheer access to free, local broadcast TV, and its lifeline to emergency information and America’s most-watched programming, creates a positive disruptive competitive force in the marketplace that industry must account for in their delivery of video services to customers on all digital platforms. Simply put, video services are much more appealing to consumers when they include access to broadcast TV content.
It’s clear that federal policymakers and lawmakers must factor in consumers’ undeniable preference for broadcast TV on multiple platforms when reshaping the future regulatory regime for the delivery of video services in America.
What’s the best path forward to ensure that consumers have access to broadcast TV in a 21st Century broadband and broadcast world? It may be one of the single most important questions the federal government must address in the coming months.
Kenny is director of public affairs for TVfreedom.org, a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network TV affiliate associations and others advocating for preserving the retransmission consent regime. He is a former press secretary at the FCC