Accuracy in Media

The big increase in cable news ratings last year has been backed up by a study from Nielsen that shows that news consumption, based on the number of minutes, rose substantially in 2016 compared to the previous year.

According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report for the fourth-quarter of 2016, news consumers—viewers who watch at least one minute of TV news each year—increased their cable news viewing by nearly an hour and a half each week when compared to 2015.

Adult Americans collectively spent on average more than 72.5 billion minutes consuming news each week in 2016, which is an increase of 11.2 billion minutes, or 18%, from 2015. Most of that increase came from cable news networks, which rose 44 percent from 18.8 billion to 27.1 billion minutes viewed each week.

Viewers last year spent an average each week of 6 hours and 28 minutes (6:28) watching national cable TV news, an increase of 85 minutes from 2015, and 1:45 more than during the 2012 election cycle.

While cable news viewing surged, national broadcast TV news (ABC, CBS, NBC) increased by just one minute per week to 2:07 in 2016 from 2:06 in 2015. Local TV news decreased by three minutes per week to 4:27.

Meanwhile, the average weekly time watching national broadcast cable news increased just one minute year over year, from 2:06 in 2015 to 2:07 in 2016. Local TV news in local people meter (LPM) markets decreased year over year, from 4:30 to 4:27.

Digital news consumption increased with computer news viewing increasing from 0:48 to 1:14, and via smartphone from 0:18 to 0:22, a trend that is likely to increase even more in future years.

Demographically, viewership spiked across the board with news consumption of cable TV news increasing in the 18-34 age group from 1:42 to 2:36, adults 35-49 from 2:51 to 4:02 and 50 plus from 6:19 to 7:56 of viewing per week.

In the demo breakdown among news consumers, weekly cable TV news consumption among adults 18-34 jumped from 1:42 to 2:36, adults 35-49 increased from 2:51 to 4:02, and adults 50 and up had the biggest spike, from 6:19 to 7:56.

Even among all adults—not just those classified as news consumers—viewership minutes increased 42 percent to 1:51 from 2015. That trend has continued in 2017 with the January average above those of the prior year.

Normally news viewership decreases after a presidential election, but thanks to Donald Trump it continues to rise as Trump battles with the media and politicians alike.


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