TV News Viewership Habits that will Continue in 2021

BY Rachel Cagle
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2020 was a big year for TV news viewership. So much was happening: the COVID-​19 pandemic, the presidential election, protests, etc. But think about that for a moment. Most of those  news topics remain ongoing. The COVID-​19 vaccine won’t be widely available to the public for months and Americans are anxiously awaiting updates. There is still ongoing political drama around the 2020 presidential election. And there are still protests taking place. Looks like TV news viewership has the potential to remain on the up and up this year!

Streaming vs. Linear TV Viewing

It’s true that more Americans have been watching TV for pleasure as well since the pandemic started. After all, with social distancing, many people have more free time on their hands than they know what to do with. This is especially true now that cold temperatures have set in, limiting outdoor activities and dining. People are passing the time by watching content available on TV streaming services. However, says Nielsen in a recent article, “Despite the rise in streaming video consumption, the value of local TV can’t be overstated, especially when it comes to news programming.”

Americans want to know what is happening in their local communities and nationally as events are taking place. Streaming TV services can’t keep up with that type of demand. So, TV news viewership on linear TV channels continues to skyrocket as new events and updates occur.

For example, there have been two happenings this year that have caused a dramatic uptick in linear TV viewing. Those were NFL games and the riots at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Those are events that Americans wanted to experience as close to first-​hand as possible and stay updated on. The U.S. Capitol riots, especially, had many Americans turning to local and national news stations for answers to their questions. So, TV news viewership has already been pretty high this year so far.

TV News Viewership Times

TV news viewership is at its highest in the late afternoon and evening, according to Nielsen. Americans are tuned into cable TV news primarily between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., TV news viewership continues to fall steadily until around 5 a.m. Then viewership slowly begins to increase once more.

Who’s tuning in before work is over (stereotypically at 5 p.m.)? Working professionals, if you can believe it. Working professionals and managers are basically the only U.S. adults who are watching TV during their work hours. Every other U.S. consumer over the age of 18 is waiting until the evening to catch up on the news.

TV Advertising

Your client’s target audience is probably among the population who are responsible for TV news viewership rising steadily over the past year. But are your clients targeting them with ads placed during news broadcasts? Check out the audience’s profile on AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel to learn when they prefer to catch up on TV news and, therefore, when your client’s TV ads should be running.