Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Local TV News Gains

The latest version of the RTNDA/Hofstra annual survey of broadcast news operations in the U.S. contains good news on several fronts.  Here's some employment highlights from the first part of the study.
  • Local TV news employment reached the second highest level recorded - with more than a thousand new jobs added, bringing total full time employment to 27, 653.  Total employment was higher in 2000, but there were also more stations doing local news then.  As a result, 2011 saw the highest average staffing levels for TV news in the history of the survey.
  • 725 stations had newsrooms that engaged in original local news reporting for those stations as well as for an additional 242 stations that did not have an independent newsroom.
  • TV newsroom employment increased 4.3%, while newspaper news employment fell 2.4%.  According to an ASNE report, newspaper staffing levels were at their lowest in the 35 years that ASNE has tracked newspaper news staffing levels.  In 2011, newsroom staffing was down 38.6% from it highest level in 1990.
  • In 2011, stations averaged 5.4 replacement hires, and 1.5 new hires.
  • Top job categories for new hires - producers, reporters, web
  • Staffing levels continued to vary by market size - Local TV newsrooms in top-25 markets had and average staff of about 76 (68 full-time, 7.3 part-time), while in the smallest markets (151+), Local TV newsrooms had an average staff of 23 (20 full-time)
The economic news for local TV was also fairly positive.
  •  About 38% of stations reported that their news budgets increased in 2011, and another 39% reported that their budgets were about the same.  Only 17% indicated that their news budgets decreased
  • Almost 60% of stations reported that their local news operations returned a profit (the highest proportion since 1998).  Less than 4% indicated that news was generating a financial loss.
  • Profitable news operations occurred most frequently in the middle markets. The study reported that 68% of local newsrooms in markets 51-100 were profitable, as were 61% in markets 101-150.  Only 54% of newsrooms in markets 1-50 reported that they were profitable, and just less than half of newsrooms in the smallest markets (151+) earned profits.
  • The proportion of total station revenues generated by local news operations remained about the same as last year, ranging from just under 40% in Top-25 markets, to 57% in the smallest markets.
One explanation for the better employment and financial numbers was the finding that local TV newscasts increased by an average of about an hour. Local TV outlets averaged roughly 5 1/2 hours of local newscasts per day in 2011.  Most of the increase in news are in the early morning, with local news starting as early as 4 a.m.  Most news directors reported audience growth in the morning, while only 3% reported a decline in morning news audience.  Another place for expanded news was in the afternoon, often replacing Oprah or other talk shows - with stations finding that news audiences are more stable, and that they can control their own costs with better.  A number of news directors also indicated that the longer newscasts helped to generate additional advertising slots for the expected deluge of political advertising in 2012.
 I'll do the radio findings tomorrow.

Sources -  Station News Staffing Soared in 2011TV NewsCheck
Average time for news keeps jumping for local television680News.com
Full study report - 2012 TV and Radio News Staffing and Profitability Survey, Part 1

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