DMA Report: Chicago, other big markets losing households

New DMA rankings show large markets losing population

Chicago, San Diego, Indianapolis big losers; Nashville, Portland big gainers

An analysis of the 2017-18 Nielsen designated market area (DMA) television household rankings shows a shift in population away from the top markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago to other DMAs while other big markets such as Washington D.C., Houston, Seattle, and Atlanta are seeing huge gains.

The top three markets account for nearly 12 percent of the country, and traditionally the economic engine for advertising in the media business. But over the last few years, these traditionally blue-state markets are seeing their political power erode as more and more people are relocating as last year’s political shift (Donald Trump winning the Presidency) is any indication.

Mirroring other recent statistical figures, Chicago is quickly losing ground as the nation’s third-largest media market. For the 2017-18 season as tabulated by Nielsen, Chicago had 3,299,720 households – down from 2016-17’s total of 3,463,060 – a net loss of 163,340 and down 4.7 percent year-to-year. The net drop of homes is the second largest among the top 30 markets and is the third-largest percentage decline. The news isn’t good for the region as many people are leaving the Chicago area due to a number of factors: dysfunctional political leadership in state government, increasing crime rates, and high taxes as residents rebelled against the since-repealed penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax levied by Cook County.

The decline continues to be fueled by the exodus of African-Americans from the market – notably from the west and south sides of the city and the south suburbs. Chicago showed the biggest drop of homes in the ten largest African-American TV markets, according to Nielsen: a loss of 25,840 homes, or 4.3 percent, year-to-year in a trend that is accelerating: in 2015, Chicago lost just 3,640 black households. This mirrors other statistical trends as African-Americans continue to leave Chicago due to rampant gun violence, weak employment opportunities, and lackluster educational facilities – something yours truly noted in a similar article on this subject two years ago.

Fresh off losing the Chargers, San Diego showed the biggest households decline: nearly 6 percent year-to-year.

Despite the drop, Chicago still ranks fourth among the largest African-American TV homes in the country, as fifth-ranked Philadelphia and sixth-ranked Los Angeles also saw declines. Just ten years ago however, Chicago ranked second among the largest African-American TV markets. The decline of the African-American population in Chicago is jarring and should be of huge concern to elected leaders and the business community at large.

Meanwhile, the number of Latino TV homes in Chicago also fell, down 3.4 percent year-to-year and a net loss of 18,500 homes despite reports of gains among Latinos in the Chicago area, with the area ranking as the nation’s sixth-largest Hispanic market. The loss is the second largest in the top ten, only behind tenth-ranked Harlingen-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas. Located in the southern most part of the state and bordering Mexico, the region lost 14,310 homes and fell 4.45 percent year-to-year.

The declining numbers should be concerning for Chicago’s media outlets as less people means less viewers and listeners means lower ad revenue for all -particularly at a time when television and radio stations are losing audiences to alternative platforms (streaming services, satellite radio, podcasts, etc.)

But Chicago isn’t alone is losing residents. To yours truly’s surprise as I crunched the numbers, the biggest decline among the top 30 markets was 29th-ranked San Diego, who had a net loss of 62,930 homes and plunged 5.9 percent year-to-year. San Diego underwent a major upheaval earlier this year with The CW shifting their programming away from Tijuana-based XETV to a digital subchannel of KFMB, forcing the station to close its doors while NBCUniversal’s Telemundo opted to land on a digital subchannel of sister station KNSD, stripping away the affiliation from a Mexican station. San Diego was dealt a major blow when the NFL’s Chargers left for Los Angeles earlier this year.

Indianapolis also was a loser with a 5.5 percent drop year-to-year, dropping to 28th. Another surprise loser was Charlotte, finishing 23rd down 3.7 percent, losing 44,680 homes.

Portland, Oregon showed one of the biggest increases in households, jumping from 25th to 22nd.

As mentioned earlier, big markets didn’t fare well, with top-ranked New York City (-3.73%) and Los Angeles (-2.89%) losing ground, but maintaining their position at number one and number two respectively. Philadelphia (-2.5%) and Dallas-Fort Worth (-2.4%) also lost ground, the latter a surprise given the growth the Metroplex has had in recent years. And despite a slight gain (0.05%), it wasn’t enough to keep Boston from sliding to tenth place. Others losing ground include Detroit (14th, -3.97%), Denver (17th, -2.5%), Cleveland (19th, -3.45%), and St. Louis (21st, -2.11%). Yours truly documented St. Louis’ population loss here three years ago during the Ferguson saga.

On the flipside, Seattle was the biggest gainer, jumping to 12th with a 4 percent year-to-year increase – appropriate given the number “12” is retired in honor of Seattle Seahawks fans, known as “The 12th Man”. Portland was second-biggest, leap frogging from 25th to 22nd with a 3.2 percent rise. Other winners include Sacramento (+2.4%), Atlanta (+1.52%), Nashville (+1.89%), and Phoenix (+1.58%), who is now eleventh and knocking on the door to enter the top ten. Among rankings, Washington D.C. and Houston moved up again, to sixth and seventh, respectively.

Coming in at 30th place was Salt Lake City replacing Hartford-New Haven, who fell to 32nd with yet another population loss.

To see the Nielsen 2017-18 television season household data spreadsheet yours truly complied and calculated, click here.