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US cable news audiences jump

News, 04 April 2017
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NEW YORK: Last year was a particularly newsworthy one, in part because of the presidential election, which saw Americans consuming 11.3 billion more minutes of news every week than in 2015, according to new data which highlights a surge in time spent with national cable TV news.

The Nielsen Total Audience Report measured usage across national and local TV, radio and digital sources and reported an overall 18% increase in weekly gross minutes of news consumption to 72.5 billion.

Almost three quarters of the additional time – 8.3 billion minutes – was claimed by national cable TV news, which registered a 44% leap from 18.8 billion to 27.1 billion minutes every week.

And within that, it was older viewers who were watching more: cable news accounted for 11.6% of TV viewing for people over 50, but just 2.5% for people 18 to 34.

Overall, adult news consumers spent nearly six and a half hours a week watching national cable TV news in 2016, noted the Wall Street Journal, up almost one and a half hours from 2015 and up one and three quarter hours from the last presidential election cycle in 2012.

But the presidential election wasn't the only story attracting interest in a year that saw an high number of celebrity deaths, growing police/community tensions in several cities, terror attacks and fears over the Zika virus – as well as overseas stories of interest like Syria and Brexit.

"Americans responded by watching, listening to and reading more news – a lot more news," Glenn Enoch, SVP/audience insights at Nielsen, wrote in the report.

A long way behind cable, in terms of weekly minutes, was local broadcast TV news, and at 15.1 billion minutes it was the only channel to have seen a decline (-1.3%).

National broadcast TV news was up 5.1% to 14.3 billion minutes, while radio news increased 9.4% to 10.5 billion minutes.

Digital sources grew rapidly but remained small in comparison to the traditional media measured by Nielsen. PC news was up 46.4% to 4.1 billion minutes, and smartphone news 50% to 1.5 billion minutes.

Data sourced from Nielsen, Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff

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