Not Just Katie: Overall Evening News Plummet Continues

May 26th, 2007 5:15 PM

For those who prefer their news fair and balanced instead of imbalanced and biased, the demise of the Big 3 networks' evening newscasts can't come quickly enough. Though their imminent end seems unlikely (see the reasons at the end of this post), the latest May sweep results strongly indicate that their march towards irrelevance may be completed sooner than originally thought.

All the happy talk at evening news sweep winner ABC should not obscure the fact that over 6% fewer Americans watched the evening newscasts during the May 2007 sweep than did during the May 2006 sweep, and that the combined May 2007 sweep results are barely above those achieved during what was described last summer as the "Low-Water Mark for Broadcast TV Viewing":


- 2007 Sweeps -- Media Bistro
- July 3, 2006 -- Media Bistro; also commented on here last year
- 2006 Sweeps -- Estimated based on ABC memo's claims that ABC was up 7% from last year's sweep, while NBC and CBS were down 11% and 15%, respectively.

A repeat of last summer's 7%-plus slide would take total viewership to below 20 million.

I fail to see any reason why the overall decline won't continue its over quarter-of-a-century trend. It's hard to imagine that in 1980, about 52 million viewers tuned into the nets' evening newscasts.

With their numbers down 60% during that time while the US population has increased over a third from 1980's 226 million, you would think that the nets might start wondering about whether their definition and delivery of the news needs improvement. Failing that, you would think that the nets' corporate masters might explore pulling the plug on these declining dinosaurs.

Don't count on either thing happening. I see little, if any, evidence that what I wrote nearly two years ago about how the evening newscasts are going to be with us long after they have become irrelevant has changed (some text revised slightly from original):

  • All three nightly broadcasts most likely lose money, when isolated from their morning counterparts (Today, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show) and their documentary shows (Dateline, 60 Minutes, 20/20, etc.). At a minimum, none makes an acceptable level of profit.
  • BUT, the news operations of each of the Big 3 networks are very small parts of very large organizations (CBS Inc., NBC-GE, and ABC-Disney), so small that apparently no one at any of the three parent companies cares enough to do anything about the continued hemorrhaging in their evening new shows, as long as the news operations themselves are profitable.
  • So because those other parts of the news operations make money, the nightly news programs can chug right along, oblivious to normal profitability expectations.
  • The journalists who put together the nightly news programs could care less if the broadcasts are profitable. It's obvious that their agenda is more important.
  • Because of all of the above, the ever-shrinking audience for these broadcasts will be spoon-fed biased reporting, Bush bashing, and conservative-bashing for the foreseeable future.

..... Perhaps until they're only speaking to themselves.

Cross-posted at