Big Three Nets' Evening News Ratings Crater to Summer 2009 Levels Two Months Early

down_graph-blogthumbnailTwo weeks ago (noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the combined audience for the Big Three Networks' Evening News shows for the week of March 29 fell to just below 20 million.

That audience was about 5% less than what Matt Drudge in the summer of 2006 headlined as "TV's Lowest Week."

The Big Three's combined audience crawled back above 20 million during the week of April 5. But Chris Ariens of Media Bistro noted earlier today that the figures for the week of April 12 were more reflective of "summertime viewing patterns" than what is supposedly peak spring viewing season.

He's right, and the decline from the same week last year is truly precipitous:

Big3EveningNews041210v041309

Ariens notes that the all-time low for evening news viewership (19.06 million overall, 5.49 million in the 25-54 demographic) occurred during the week of June 15, 2009 (he writes today that it was June 23, but that was the date of his related post last year). Last week's results were only 2.9% higher overall, and only 5.8% higher in the 25-54 demo.

The Media Bistro writer tries to blame this result on the general decline in TV use:

Summer viewing patterns are setting in early for the broadcast evening newscasts. The levels of people using television (PUTS) were down last week to the lowest levels since the week of July 13, 2009. As a result, all three shows were down week-to-week.

Okay, but it's springtime, not summer, and Mr. Ariens would have to demonstrate that PUTS is down by double digits from a year ago to be convincing. Notably, he didn't do that, nor did he provide a link.

The following paragraph from a post at Nielsen Wire, although it concerns the fourth quarter of 2009, seems to reach an opposite conclusion about TV viewership in general (bold is mine):

“The rise in simultaneous use of the web and TV gives the viewer a unique on-screen and off-screen relationship with TV programming,” said Nielsen Company media product leader Matt O’Grady. “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different.”

It's hard to believe that the Big 3 Net's problem is that more people are turning off their TVs. It's that people are changing the channel away from Brian, Diane, and Katie. I'll leave it to readers to assess how much of the recent turn-away has to do with something I cited two weeks ago: "... more recent efforts at demonizing Tea Partiers, i.e., ordinary Americans."

And we haven't hit the dog days of summer yet.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.