People are Watching TV… but what about local news?

By Steve Schwaid, VP Digital Strategies

Look at your numbers over the past several years. Chances are your late news shares are down — in many markets, down double digits. Meanwhile people are watching television in huge numbers. Prime time has seen great numbers, cable is doing well, the Academy Awards were up, and then there’s Netflix, Hulu and the other providers.iStock_000023389363XSmall

People are watching TV. But they aren’t always watching your local news on the average night. Why? They don’t need to.  A growing number think your product is boring, predictable and old. Weather is on their phone. The latest international, national and local news is on their app and it seems on many nights the local newscast is the police blotter of irrelevant crime, house fires and car accidents. I know. I was there and I fed the beast.

Let’s all be honest with ourselves. News directors and General Managers, grab last night’s newscast format and the format from a show 10 years ago. What’s different? Come on, what’s really different?

Don’t say the set or the graphics. You can change them on a whim and with a few hundred thousand dollars. Viewers don’t watch for the graphics or the set. What else has changed? The anchors? Probably. But they still sit on the set with weather and sports screen left or right.  Maybe one year you made a big change and swapped the chairs and also hired new anchors. But from the viewers’ perspective they probably look and sound much like the folks they replaced.

But are these moves any more than changing the deck chair on the Titanic?

It’s not a matter of using Facebook more effectively or better promos. We’ve seen it in research and in talking with users and viewers. It’s time to consider wholesale content presentation changes. A few stations are going boldly where others haven’t or are afraid to.

There’s no question there’s risk. And we know folks in TV news have a tendency to be risk averse. That’s understandable if you’re the market leader or a strong number two. But if you’re not, it’s time to have those soul searching conversations before it’s too late.

So you still think this is too risky?   Consider the last content provider that didn’t want to change their business fundamentals and decided to wait it out:  the newspaper industry.

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