HomeResearch Topics
PEW RESEARCH CENTERJULY 13, 2021
Local TV News Fact Sheet
MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
Television remains a common place for Americans to get their news, with local TV on par with or outpacing cable and network TV. In 2020, local TV news saw its audience increase across the evening and late night time slots. Financially, local TV companies generated more revenue in 2020 than in 2019, consistent with a cyclical pattern in which revenue rises in election years and falls in non-election years. Explore patterns and longitudinal data in local TV news below.
Audience
In 2020, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) increased in two key time slots – evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late night (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) – according to Comscore StationView Essentials® data. Local TV average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the late night and evening news time slots both increased by 4%. The average audience for the morning news time slot (6 a.m. to 9 a.m) decreased 4% in 2020. Audience for the midday news time slot (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) increased 10% in 2020, while the average audience for the prime news time slot (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) decreased by 5%.
Average audience for local TV news
Key time slots
Economics
Local TV station revenue typically follows a cyclical pattern: It increases in election years and decreases in non-election years. In 2020, an election year, local TV over-the-air advertising revenue totaled $18.4 billion, an 8% increase over 2019, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data.
Total digital advertising revenue for local TV stations increased 6% in 2020, reaching a total of about $1.4 billion. Digital advertising revenue accounted for 7% of total ad revenue.
Revenue for the 839 local TV stations defined as “news-producing stations” (stations that have a news director and are viable, commercial and are English-language affiliates in the U.S.) was $15.3 billion, according to the BIA Advisory Services database.
Advertising revenue for local TV
Chart
Data
Share
Embed
Projected
Total local TV advertising revenue (inU.S. dollars)
Digital
Over-the-air
2005
2010
2015
2020
2025
0
10 B
20 B
30 B
* 2021-2025 numbers are projections.
Note: Local TV advertising revenue figures include over-the-air (OTA) revenue and digital revenue. Digital revenue numbers are not available prior to 2010. Numbers are updated annually.
Source: Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Revenue from retransmission fees – the fees paid by cable and satellite systems to carry local channels – has been increasing rapidly in the past decade, though the rate of growth has slowed recently, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2019, retransmission revenue reached $11.9 billion, up from $11.1 billion in 2018 and $9.5 billion in 2017. Kagan projects that this figure will reach $13.3 billion by 2025.
Retransmission fee revenue for U.S. local TV stations
Chart
Data
Share
Embed
Projected
Total retransmission fee revenue (inU.S. dollars)
0
5 B
10 B
15 B
2010201520202025
* 2020-2025 numbers are projections.
Note: Broadcast retransmission fees include owned and operated (O&O), affiliate station, reverse retransmissions and, starting with 2015, estimated broadcast station carriage fees from the Virtual Service Providers or vMVPDs. Data is as of June 2020. Numbers are updated annually.
Source: Estimates and projections by Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Five major publicly held local TV station companies – Gray, Nexstar, Scripps, Sinclair and Tegna – report political advertising revenue separately from other types of revenues in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. In 2020, the five companies reported a total of $2 billion in political advertising revenue, compared with $1.2 billion in 2018 and $843 million in 2016, the two most recent election years. (These five companies were once seven, but this reduction is due to two mergers – Nexstar purchased Media General in 2017 and Tribune in 2019.)
Political advertising revenue at local TV companies
Chart
Data
Share
Embed
Total political advertising revenue forfive publicly held local TV stationcompanies (in U.S. dollars)
0
500 M
1 B
1.5 B
2 B
2.5 B
20122014201620182020
Note: Political advertising revenue includes both local and national political advertising. Meredith was not included because it operates in a different fiscal year from the others. Data for 2012-2016 includes Media General, which was purchased by Nexstar in 2017. Data for 2012-2018 includes Tribune, which was purchased by Nexstar in 2019.
Source: Individual company Securities and Exchange Commission filings for the full year ending Dec. 31. Companies included here are: Gray, Nexstar, Scripps, Sinclair and Tegna.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Newsroom investment
Roughly 30,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or television, film and video editors or operators in broadcast TV newsrooms in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. Median wages for editors in 2020 were about $60,000, while for reporters the figure was about $56,000. For television, film and video editors and camera operators, the median wage was about $55,000. Photographers had a median wage of about $50,000. (Broadcast TV newsroom employment and wage data includes both national and local TV broadcasters. For details, see the methodology.)
Employment in broadcast TV newsrooms
Employment
The average amount of weekday local TV news programming increased slightly in 2020, according to the RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University survey. Local TV stations dedicated an average of 6.2 hours to news programming per weekday in 2020, up slightly from 5.9 hours in 2018 and 2019.
Number of hours dedicated to local TV news
Chart
Data
Share
Embed
Average number of local TV news hoursper weekday
0
2
4
6
8
2005201020152020
Note: Based on survey responses of news directors at all commercial local TV stations in the fourth quarter of each year among operating, non-satellite television stations.
Source: RTDNA/Hofstra University Surveys (through 2019); RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Surveys (2020).
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Ownership
In 2020, 189 local TV stations changed hands at a cost of $3.6 billion, as annually reported by BIA Advisory Services. This is down from $6.5 billion across 102 stations that experienced changes in ownership in 2019.
Mergers and acquisitions of local TV stations
Chart
Data
Share
Embed
Total value of local TV station mergersand acquisitions (in U.S. dollars)
0
5 B
10 B
15 B
20 B
20002005201020152020
Note: Transaction totals include all that are announced as of the end of December for each year. Numbers from the previous year may be updated to reflect new information.
Source: Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER
Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Associate Director Katerina Eva Matsa and Research Assistant Jacob Liedke.
Read the methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Find more in-depth explorations of local TV news by following the links below:

1615 L St. NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
USA
(+1) 202-419-4300 | Main
(+1) 202-857-8562 | Fax
(+1) 202-419-4372 | Media Inquiries
RESEARCH TOPICS
Politics & Policy
International Affairs
Immigration & Migration
Race & Ethnicity
Religion
Generations & Age
Gender & LGBT
Family & Relationships
Economy & Work
Science
Internet & Technology
News Habits & Media
Methodological Research
Full topic list
FOLLOW US
Email Newsletters
Facebook
Twitter
Tumblr
YouTube
RSS
ABOUT PEW RESEARCH CENTER Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Copyright 2021 Pew Research CenterAboutTerms & ConditionsPrivacy PolicyReprints, Permissions & Use Policy​Feedback​Careers