A Dose of Reality and a Call to Action

iStock_000009526661SmallBy Steve Schwaid, VP of Digital Strategies

Sometimes a dose of reality can be pretty sobering, and scary. We’ve all heard about the cord cutters in the trades, but you don’t often get a sense of how real it is.

I’m in the OLDER demo. I must have my cable channels along with my Netflix. I don’t have Hulu plus, and while I do have Amazon Prime, I’m not wowed with their video selection. Yes I have my Apple TV, my ipad and my smartphone and I often three-screen in the evening.

I was recently visiting a client station, meeting with about 20 producers, managers and reporters who were almost all under 35. We started talking about cord cutters and who uses what. This informal “survey” was eye opening, and honestly it more than surprised me. It sent a few chills down my spine.

I asked how many had online video services?

Netflix +85%
Hulu Plus 70%
Amazon Prime 60%

They’re okay with waiting a year to see the episode I watched last night.

How many DON’T have cable/satellite?

85% (No CNN, MSNBC or Fox. For ESPN events, they may go to a bar or a friend’s house that has cable.) Only two people who dropped cable had broadcast antennas.

I asked the others, “How do you watch local news?” Many don’t … and they work in the business. Four or so said they watched the live stream on their phone. But they admitted they could be easily distracted.

These are people who work in news and they don’t feel compelled to watch local news.

Why? I’m not entirely sure. Clearly they felt they got the news they needed from other online sources. More important, I got the sense they felt local news wasn’t relevant to them. They admitted that their friends outside the business don’t watch local news at all.

For ratings, we have a tendency to focus on the +35 demo. We know how to produce for that viewer. The under 35 demo is a shrinking local news audience – the numbers may resemble a ski slope.

This should scare us. We need to start discussions, research and planning to understand what will get this consumer to watch local news. Will they watch local news?

Consider holding strategy sessions driven by your employees younger than 35. Take the +35 managers out of the initial loop. See what the younger demo wants to create without the +35 bias. Empower them to come up with a project to create content their peers will seek out. Produce it. Test it.

If we don’t figure this out soon we could be facing a viewership that is truly aging out of the demos we sell. And that would be a tragedy.

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4 Responses to A Dose of Reality and a Call to Action

  1. Pingback: Local News Vet Finds Young Journos Don’t Watch Local News: ‘This Should Scare Us’ - TVSpy

  2. slin says:

    I find this to be a very disturbing and even scary discovery. It’s like a publisher who doesn’t read books or a car mechanic who doesn’t know how to drive. To think that a news station has a group of staffers who aren’t interested in their communities or the actual news product they produce is the ultimate disservice to the community and an utter slap in the face to broadcast journalists everywhere.

  3. SLS says:

    I do read the newspaper everyday (the “paper” and on-line). Sadly, I don’t watch the local news either. It’s shallow and means nothing to me. In the “old” days, all of the station’s resources were focused on the 6pm “hour.” It contained substance — journalism. But when TV stations added two (or more) hours of “local” news time in the early afternoon they threw quality out the window. The content became quantity instead of quality. A reporter has no time to gather facts and get that extra piece of video when they have to write several different versions, plus do a couple of v/o’s on other subjects and be ready to first appear on the air at 4pm. The packages contain 1:15 of dribble and only contain one interview. Each “local” news show only contains a little bit of “local” news content. The rest is material from a feed service or from the wires (the same material that is on every website on the planet). People would watch local news if it really contained local content.

  4. lee polowczuk says:

    This is not surprising at all. It’s probably been this way for at least two decades, and it’s not going to get better. The basic issue is that few under 30 have any stake in their community. It’s not until you buy a house, get married and have kids that you start becoming engaged in television news. The attraction is likely to begin in the morning when you have to see the weather and get the kids off to school. That’s where you have to create or re-purpose content to draw those viewers into the evening news. News at 11, forget it. News at 10 will always be a winner.

    The true news demos is 35-64, especially with all that 55-64 baby boomer disposable income.

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