The Winter of Our Discontent… But Not for Local News

It’s been a long winter for those of us in the Northeast, and as of the writing of this blog, it still isn’t over. But there are some people who should be dancing in the streets (okay, given the snow and ice, perhaps they should just walk briskly, but carefully). The happy people should be the local newscasters. Let’s take a look at Boston, which was really whacked by Jack Frost. The dark teal line in the graph below shows the average rating for all the broadcast Monday through Friday daily newscasts in the Boston local market from Jan. 2 through Feb. 19. The light orange line shows the inches of snow and rain Beantown received each day. It doesn’t take a statistician to see that when the snow comes down, the ratings go up. (The weather data can be found here.) Winter of Our Discontent Blog Image 1 A little bit of statistics shows that as the Sox fans continued to suffer (in terms of the weather, not the team), they started watching the news a bit more. The dotted line shows an underlying trend of increased news viewership. The increasing trend in viewership is statistically significant, though not strong. Winter of Our Discontent Blog Image 2 When I combined the overall trend of increased news viewing with the specific amounts of snow and precipitation, I got a very strong model that predicts how snowbound Bostonians turned to their local TV news to learn of the next horrors that were set to “rain down” on them. The model is shown below, with the model being the green line and the actual ratings the dark teal line. Winter of Our Discontent Blog Image 3 The news that local news is a strong “go-to” source is actually old news. I talked about it in an earlier blog on the weather’s impact on news during droughts: “Having a Heat Wave” So neither rain, nor snow, nor heat of day will keep the newscaster from his or her appointed rounds, and the viewers from watching local news.

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.


4 thoughts on “The Winter of Our Discontent… But Not for Local News

  1. Bruce, thank you for the correlation between weather events and spikes in TV viewing. It helps combat the naysayers who believe that broadcast TV is dead and everyone gets their news online now. It’s simply not true. Broadcast TV is still viable and will continue to be the most cost-effective medium to build a brand for years to come. Local news viewing in the morning is especially stable across demos!

  2. In the Spokane Market (Where we are the only RENTRAK Subscribers) a survey was done with 1200 people 18+ and found 59% of everyone said they turn to Broadcast TV first for thier local news, 19% said internet, 17% said newspaper. Contrary to popular belief, there are still eyeballs watching TV.

  3. Bruce–Very effective way to show local television is still the go-to source for severe weather information.

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