Viewers flee Chicago’s evening, late newscasts

Chicago news operations have been "dropping the mic" as of late
Chicago news operations have been “dropping the mic” as of late

Chicago’s news stations might want to rethink their news presentations.

An analysis of May local news sweeps numbers in the adult 25-54 demographic in the nation’s ten largest DMAs from TVNewsCheck showed Chicago’s local newscasts losing ground faster than those in New York and Los Angeles.

In fact, Chicago’s 21 percent drop overall was second only to Boston (down 23 percent.)

Despite ratings successes in primetime, CBS’ owned stations and affiliates in the top ten still haven’t figured out a way to translate that success into more viewers for its newscasts, while ABC-owned stations and affiliates continue to dominate, even without The Oprah Winfrey Show, an one-time early-fringe powerhouse fueling their newscasts.

NBC’s lone success story was in Washington, D.C. , where WRC now dominates a market where CBS affiliate WUSA once ruled with an iron grip.

And deep in the heart of Texas, Tribune – with its NewsFix presentation in Houston and now Dallas – is hardly making a ratings impact, though Houston’s KIAH did show an increase at 9 p.m.

And perhaps the only surprise in the top ten is in Houston, where NBC affiliate and longtime ratings doormat KPRC shot to the top at 10 p.m., knocking off longtime leader KTRK, an ABC O&O.

Now to be fair, the analysis only looked at newscasts airing in early fringe, prime access, prime time, and late (10 or 11 p.m.) news. 4 p.m., midday, and morning newscasts – whose daypart continues to add viewers –  were not included.

With that said, of the seven major local news stations – five English and two Spanish – all lost ground in the adult 25-54 demo compared to May 2013 in almost every key time period. The only exception was WGN-TV’s 5 p.m. newscast, which beat CBS’ WBBM-TV head-to-head scoring an 18 percent year-to-year increase.

The 10 p.m. newsrace among the market’s three O&Os saw 24 percent erosion from May 2013, while the 5 p.m. slot saw a 10 percent drop, 6 p.m. a 17 percent drop, and 9 p.m. news on WGN and WFLD shed 18 percent of viewers.

Meanwhile, Univision’s WGBO dominated over Telemundo’s WSNS-TV in the Spanish-language news race at both 5 and 10 p.m. In fact, WGBO drew more 25-54 viewers than WBBM at 10 p.m.

It’s clear viewers are clearly looking for alternatives, especially at 10 p.m. as younger audiences are opting for The Daily Show and SportsCenter instead of the local news shows (and not The Arsenio Hall Show, which was given its walking papers in May.)

But another reason for the large tune-out is the news presentations themselves. Viewers are clearly annoyed with the “Breaking News” and “Developing Story” cliches being thrown out by local stations. The worst offender these days is NBC’s WMAQ-TV, whose “Breaking News” and “Developing Story” teases are starting to make WFLD’s newscasts look like Academy Award-winning presentations by comparison. And you wonder why the NBC-owned station’s audiences fled for the exits after the Winter Olympics were over.

One prime example of why the numbers are down was the pathetic way WBBM, WMAQ, and WLS-TV each handled coverage of Monday night’s storm. It seemed everytime yours truly turned to one of the three stations, one or the other was in commercial break, making their presentations a disorganized mess. Even worse, all three stations ended coverage at 10:35 p.m. at the height of the storm, and went to network programming. Can’t believe yours truly going to say this, but kudos should go to WFLD -yes that WFLD – for sticking past 10 p.m. with storm coverage.

Look, yours truly understand advertisers need to get their message across and bills must get paid, but in a time when severe weather is pounding the area, local stations really need to focus on what the top priorities are. The last thing on anyone’s mind is what sandwich they’re serving at Subway the next day.

Local stations are supposed to inform and serve their communities in time of severe weather. The market’s traditional three network O&Os failed on that mission Monday night.


2 thoughts on “Viewers flee Chicago’s evening, late newscasts

    • […] Terrence Henderson analyzes a recent survey by TVNewsCheck in regards to Chicago’s declining evening newscasts. Asides […]

    • I fully concur. The rigid copy-cat local news model in predictable story selection, hackneyed overwrought writing and pseudo-authoritative presentation has become an anachronism. From night to night and station to station the assembly line of stories all sound/look the same. Only the names of victims and addresses of the crimes are different. You feel nothing watching earnest reporters and anchors telling you about nothing of relevance. I haven’t watched a local newscast in decades…and I used to work in the biz.

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