Despite Grey Hairs, News Sees Green

One of the biggest surprises of the broadcast network upfront was the strength of the evening-news daypart, which brought in hefty CPM hikes. Increases across the Big Three networks averaged 13 percent, higher than any network received for any other daypart.

The evening-news demo has not only continued to get older—the median age across NBC, CBS and ABC reached 60 this year, up from 58.8 last year—but viewership also has been declining since 9/11, falling by 1.3 million viewers a night this past season. Ratings in the 25-54 demographic were down a cumulative 7 percent.

Driving demand for the daypart is its ability to still reach a wide audience: about 28 million viewers per night. And most advertisers in the half-hour buy spots across all three networks, bringing mass reach. The main category looking to reach the older audience is pharmaceuticals, one of the broadest and most competitive.

Add in automotive and financial companies looking to target the 35-54 audience, and there is enough demand combined with limited inventory to drive up the price. Plus, with pre- and post-presidential election coverage, other categories may be betting on a fourth-quarter bump in viewership.

Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media, said that what drove up prices was “a fear of being shut out from an audience [clients] need to reach. You have hefty competition, particularly with the lifestyle drugs Viagra, Levitra and Cialis.”

Added one media buyer: “Evening news is a small daypart. All it takes is two or three categories to jump in or pull out and it can change the entire dynamic of the daypart.”

This season, ABC and NBC are down by 400,000 viewers per night, and CBS is down 500,00 viewers. NBC is still the leader with 10.4 million viewers a night, followed by ABC with 9.7 million and CBS with 7.9 million. The demo with the highest ratings among all three networks is 55-plus. The networks total only about 627,000 viewers 18-24.