DMA Report: Chicago reverses downward trend, nudges up a bit

First increase in years as coverage grows to 3.0 percent

Even though the local print media continues to sound the drumbeat of Chicago and Illinois losing population (almost every day it seems), there is one category the city has actually gained in – the number of television homes – even though the gain is very little.

Nielsen released its 2019-20 estimates for all 210 U.S. television markets on Monday, and it showed Chicago gaining 5,030 homes – up a scant 0.15 percent from the 2018-19 estimates. Chicago now accounts for 3.043 percent of the nation’s coverage with 3,256,400 television homes, up from 2.9 percent during the 2018-19 season.

This is a bit surprising, given the Chicago area continues to lose population to other states and the abundance of cord-cutting, which is reducing the number of television homes across the country as viewers are watching their shows on other devices such as tablets, laptops, and even smartphones.

Even more interesting, Chicago was the only market to post a gain in the top ten largest markets while New York (-3.89%) and Los Angeles (-2.49%) lost homes.

Still, the news is little consolation to local officials as Chicago and Illinois continues to lose population at an alarming rate, as the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday (and Tuesday, and probably Thursday.) Keep in mind these are estimates and measure TV only; these figures do not reflect on the overall health of a designated market area (DMA) given other measuring sticks (such as radio and print) also exist. But it is good news for the market’s local TV stations.

As for other markets in the top 30, most lost households mainly due to either population loss, cord-cutting, or the combination of the two. The biggest loser this time around is a surprise: Raleigh-Durham with a hard fall – dropping from 25th to 27th with a loss of 83,390 homes or a drop of 7.52 percent. Even worse, the triangle fell behind rival Charlotte, which jumped from 23rd to 21st.

Gainers include San Francisco and the Bay Area (back up to 6th place); Phoenix (up to 11th); Indianapolis (up 3 to 25th); and Salt Lake City (30th.) Of these markets, only San Francisco lost TV homes (49,730 for a 2.06 percent loss.) With the Bay Area moving back up, the major networks (expect ABC) can now claim they own stations in all of the top six markets.

Remember last year when Peoria-Bloomington gained almost 10,000 homes out of nowhere, resulting in a big jump from 122nd to 113th? Well, they must’ve vanished as the market gave back 24,730 homes, resulting in a 10.57 percent loss, dropping to 120th place.

Other Illinois markets were hit just as hard due to not only cord cutting but also population loss: After gaining 520 homes last year, Champaign-Springfield-Decatur plunged six notches to 88th place, losing 28,720 homes for a huge 8.34 percent loss. St. Louis dropped two spots to 23rd place, down 5.57 percent and lost 64,810 homes; and Rockford scooted up one to 138th place, but still lost 400 homes.

The Paducah, Ky. market – who does have some Illinois counties in its DMA surrounding Harrisburg, gained four spots to 84th (guessing those gains did not come in the Illinois part of the market.)

Nationally, Nielsen tabulated 107,007,910 homes for the 2019-20 season, down 2.9 percent form last year.

As for lists regarding the largest African-American, Latino, and Asian DMAs by market size, Nielsen no longer makes the data publicly available.

To see the entire list, click here and here.

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