Online News Sources Are Encroaching on Linear TV’s Last Stronghold

– The News Will Be Live Streamed
By Kendra Chamberlain

During the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris this month, the pay TV news networks experienced a 153% jump in ratings compared to the average for the prior four weeks, as viewers followed updates on the tragedy throughout the weekend.

Paris4Peace symbol

Paris attacks: millions of TV viewers and social media users wanted to follow the tragedy


CNN’s 2.5 million audience drew the largest group of viewers in the 25-54 demo with 935,000; Fox News attracted the largest total audience during the crisis coverage, with 3.799 million viewers, 927,000 belonging to the 25-54 demo; MSNBC had over a million viewers during coverage of the attacks Friday night, with 258,000 viewers aged 25-54.

Antenna TV networks were even more popular.

In the US, NBC’s “Nightly News” drew an audience of 8.85 million viewers during Friday evening, and 2.4 million of that in the 25-54 demo; CBS’ “Evening News” had 8.2 million viewers, with 2 million in the 25-54 demo; and ABC’s “World News Tonight” had 8.1 million viewers, 1.9 million in the 25-54 demo.

These numbers point to the lasting importance of TV news programs and coverage to viewers, particularly during breaking news events. But increasingly, viewers are reaching for their smartphones and tablets during these types of events.

Viewers may log on to Twitter, for example, to keep up with breaking updates, or read on-the-scene perspectives from local citizens; viewers may also monitor Facebook for updates. Facebook launched an “I’m safe” button for French users to alert loved ones around the world that they’re OK, which adds another reason to check Facebook. And once on Twitter and Facebook, viewers begin to consume news, including written pieces, video clips and live stream links, from their friends.

This is just one example of the multi-year trend the industry has seen of viewers getting more and more news from online sources or distribution channels and less and less news from traditional sources such as radio or print newspapers – and now that behavior is encroaching on TV, too.

Here’s another example. CBS’ Web-only live streaming news channel CBSN drew 2.3 million unique viewers and 4.9 million streams from Friday through Monday, setting records throughout the weekend in terms of live streaming viewers for its coverage of the Paris attacks and the Democratic presidential debate it held on Saturday.

While CBS didn’t release any demographic data about those viewers who live streamed the debate, it’s safe to assume some of them were in the 25-54 demo.

“We launched CBSN so viewers could watch CBS News anytime and anywhere,” said Nancy Lane, senior executive producer at CBS News Digital. “The records set over the weekend underscore how CBSN extends CBS News’ coverage of events like Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate. The viewership numbers also tell us that CBSN serves the needs of viewers during major breaking news events with live coverage on digital platforms, where nothing like this service had existed before.”

In fact, most of the major news networks in the US now offer live feeds of their linear TV channels, although for both pay TV and antenna TV networks, viewers will need a pay TV subscription to access the live streams.

During breaking news events, viewers turn to the TV sets for live coverage. It’s one of the tried and true rules of TV. But we’re witnessing a sharp divergence among viewers that get their news from online sources and those that get news from the TV set. This is just another facet of the emerging cord-never phenomenon that has pay TV providers scrambling to launch skinny bundles, and has TV networks scrambling to launch OTT services.

The digital native Millennials get their news from the Web, and thanks to the rise of online-only news outlets, there’s less and less reason for these viewers to shift their news consumption behaviors over to the traditional news networks. And those traditional networks will show more incentive to increase access to coverage online.


Millennials Get News from the Web and from Smartphones

A study from Wibbitz in September found only around 17% of US viewers aged 18-29 watch news on the TV set. In the survey, 23% reported getting news from social media, 40% said they get their news from digital news sites, and 43% said they get their news primarily on their smartphones. These findings are corroborated with a handful of others that have tracked how the Internet has shaped news consumption.

A recent Pew study found that 60% of Millennials receive political news from Facebook. According to the American Press Institute, 88% of Millennials get news from Facebook regularly, and more than half of them do so daily.

This trend has been years in the making for Millennial viewers. In 2013, Pew Research found 71% of those 18-29 cited the Internet as a main news source, while 55% cited TV as a main source of news. And among viewers aged 30-49, 63% said the Internet is where they go to get most of their news. That was the first year that the Internet and TV were equal in terms of importance as news sources for that age bracket.

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s “Digital News Report 2015” found personal mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are now playing a central role in news consumption for viewers, and particularly for Millennial viewers. “We find more compelling evidence about the central role being played by smartphones and a sharp increase in the use of social media for finding, sharing, and discussing the news,” said David Levy, director at Reuters Institute.

Viewers may receive push notifications from both news apps and social media platforms when big news events are taking place. “There has been a significant increase in the consumption of online news video,” said Nic Newman in the Reuters report. “This reflects the new strategies from social networks to display and play more video and a greater supply of video from publishers.”

And live streaming news is gaining viewers. Reuters’ report found that live streams are popular during big breaking news stories and scheduled events, even across age groups, but tends to be watched more by viewers who are most interested in news.

One the other hand, older viewers haven’t embraced online news to the degree that the digital natives have, and as a result, the median age of broadcast TV viewers has continued to age over the past five years. A recent MoffettNathanson report found the median age for TV news to be 44 years of age during the 2013-2014 season. That’s 6% older than the median age of TV viewers during the 2009-2010 season.

“The reality is that most people over 45 are using digital news as an additional layer of choice and convenience without abandoning their core habits around television, radio, and print,” Newman said. “Younger audiences who have grown up with digital are exhibiting very different behaviors and increasingly expect the news to come to them through online channels and in new formats.”


TV News Moves Online

Interestingly, TV news sources are still considered some of the most reliable news sources across all age demographics, but that hasn’t stopped viewers from watching less TV news programs. These trends are emerging in the US and the UK.

“We can detect in the US and UK some fall-off in topline figures – specifically in the number of people watching scheduled TV bulletins and programs,” Newman said.

Online News Sources and Free Live Streaming News Sites
CBS’ CBSN (live)
Shift by MSNBC (live)
HuffPost (live)
Yahoo News
Reuters TV
Vice Media
Al Jazera (live)
Bloomberg News (live)
ABC News (live)
Sky News (live)

BFM TV (live)

France24 (live)

Some TV Network News that Offer Live Streaming in TV Everywhere Apps
Fox News
CNN Newsroom
BBC World News and BBC America
Fox Business
Univison’s Univision Now, which offers live streaming broadcasts and push notifications during breaking news events
One America News Network
Al Jazeera America

Web-based news is only getting better in quality. Vice Media, which began as a Web-only news outlet, is now one of the more respected news sources, and has been tapped recently by HBO and A&E Networks to develop linear TV programming. The HuffingtonPost is another example. In the past few years it has built up a powerful global news network and has launched a number of live streaming news ventures. And even news organizations that were once print-only have moved into online video. Time, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal now create and distribute Web video coverage across their respective sites and apps, giving viewers even more news outlets to turn to instead of the TV set.

Meanwhile, traditional TV news networks now have teams dedicated to packaging TV news segments and posting them online, which can be easily shared across social platforms and that serve to only drive more news consumption across platforms online. These traditional news networks must now balance reaching viewers ..

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