The Power of Local TV

There are those in the advertising industry who scoff, nay bray, at the supposed decline of local TV stations. I don’t believe this to be true. The power of local TV is in its localness—its ability to connect and unite communities. The best example of this is the reaction of TV viewers to traumatic events. This blog talked about the reaction of viewers to Hurricane Sandy last fall where TV viewing increased during the storm in the East Coast markets. The same phenomenon happened during the horrible tornados in May in Oklahoma. The chart below shows what happened to TV viewing levels in Oklahoma City the day the storm hit, compared to the same day a week before.

Oklahoma City HUT% (Monday Prior to Tornado and Monday Day of Tornado)

Viewing levels on Monday, May 20, were higher starting around 8 a.m. and leapt up when the storm hit at approximately 3 p.m. (Note that Rentrak’s HUT includes viewing of multiple TV sets in the home, so our HUTs can rise over 100 percent.)

The aftermath of the storm continued to bring in high viewership as people tuned in to understand more about what had happened. The chart below shows viewing levels the day after the storm, along with levels for the same day of the week prior. Viewing was up throughout the day.Oklahoma City HUT% (Day After the Tornado and Week Before)

This increase in viewing went disproportionately to the broadcast stations in the market. As the table below shows, HUT went up the day of the storm by 18 percent on average. However, the share of viewing to the major broadcast affiliates went up by 58 percent.

Viewing Levels in Oklahoma City - May 2013

This is not to say that cable news viewing did not go up as well—it did. But local TV news is still the dominant place to which the public turns in times of crisis. Brevity being the soul of wit, I have not included the results for Wichita and Sherman. But the results are the same, increase in HUTs during the storm, and a disproportionate increase for broadcast stations. Please contact me if you wish to see that data.

As an aside, I believe that advertising is about story telling. Marketers are telling stories about their brands. And any storyteller wants to tell her story in a place where the listener is disposed to be trusting and attentive. Local TV clearly is that sort of place.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


One thought on “The Power of Local TV

  1. Pingback: Dumb Stuff Said in Washington, D.C. |

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