CNN, Fox News lag in Chicago market – as local news expansion is starting to go bust in some markets
You’d think with all the local newscasts saturating Chicago television, there would be a lot of people watching, right?
A recent study released has confirmed this fact – but cable news may be another story.
According to a study commissioned by Nielsen, Chicago viewers spent two hours and 43 minutes watching local news in the first quarter of 2017 – tying Minneapolis-St. Paul for seventh place among the top 25 markets measured by Local People Meters, which includes demo information in addition to household numbers.
What’s odd about this is – two markets with the fewest local news operations with only three each – ranked in the top five. Second was St. Louis and Detroit ranked fourth. CBS has not had a news operation in Detroit since 2003 as the network bought the old WGPR-TV in 1994 (now WWJ-TV) after they lost its longtime affiliate WJBK in the New World/Fox deal. Outside of a news show host by conservative talker Jamie Allman, Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate KDNL in St. Louis also lacks a news operation (Sinclair is buying Tribune Broadcasting, owners of former ABC and current Fox affiliate KTVI and CW affiliate KPLR.)
By comparison, Cleveland ranked first on average, with three hours and 27 minutes. New York ranked 22nd with an hour and 59 minute average and Los Angeles tied Portland for seventeenth place, each with two hours and ten minutes. Spending the less time? Both Orlando and Washington D.C. tied for last place with an hour and 54 minutes each.
In vast contrast, Chicagoans spent far less time with cable news than their LPM counterparts. Despite constant hype in the trade press about cable news ratings, Chicago tied for 22nd with Dallas-Fort Worth, and ahead of only Minneapolis and San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose. The numbers may be a reflection on how viewers feel about the cable news networks as the metropolitan area does not get a fair shake from the national media – particularly from Fox News – regarding coverage as the city’s homicide epidemic and crime rate is a frequent topic.
Orlando ranked first with three hours and fifteen minutes on average for cable-news watching, more than double the time watching local news.
Overall, Chicago viewers spent 5 hours and 43 minutes on average watching news, ranking seventeenth among the top 25 markets measured. Breaking it down, Chicagoans spent an hour and one minute on average for broadcast network news and and hour and 51 minutes watching cable news. Overall, Pittsburgh finished first on the list with a grand total of seven hours and 47 minutes. Among adults 18-plus, Chicago placed a strong fifth – behind front-runner Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.
The study indicates there is still interest in local news here compared to other cities – despite the never-ending complaints about it, including the number of hours devoted to it from local stations. But recent trends seem to indicate the local news expansion is starting to go bust.
Despite being ranked second in terms to time spent watching local news, St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK canceled its noon newscast on Sept. 8, due to low ratings and replaced with Jeopardy! reruns. NBC affiliate WLEX in Lexington, Ky. canceled its 4 p.m. newscast and replaced with Cityline, a Canadian talk show debuted in the United States on Sept. 11. And in Indianapolis, ABC affiliate WRTV pulled the plug on its 4 p.m. newscast called “The Now” in June, branded by corporate parent Scripps in some areas for its afternoon or evening newscasts.
In fact, it was low news ratings – and low ratings overall, that forced out WRTV GM Larry Blackerby on Monday. According to Indianapolis Business Journal, the station’s newscasts finished not only behind market leader WTHR (NBC) and WXIN (Fox), but also CBS affiliate WTTV and former CBS affiliate WISH, now a CW station. Certainly not helping is ABC’s third-place position in the prime-time race, barely ahead of Fox.
By comparison, ABC-owned WLS-TV in Chicago is a dominant number one in local news and programming.
According to Nielsen, Indianapolis viewers spent three hours and 26 minutes watching local news in a separate survey for metered, non-LPM markets and nineteenth overall, which Nashville finished a top of. Birmingham finished first in local news viewing, topping out at three hours and 53 minutes. Among all news, Nashville topped the list with a whopping ten hours and three minutes – far higher than Pittsburgh, who topped the LPM list – obviously satisfying for Predator fans who saw their team beat by the Penguins in the recent Stanley Cup Final.