Nightly Newscasts Dying? Maybe Not

By Alex Weprin 

It is undeniably true that over the last few decades, the viewership levels for the network evening newscasts have been slowly declining. But as Kansas City Star TV critic and columnist Aaron Barnhart writes, there may yet be some life in the format:

Viewership for the four network newscasts has actually increased by more than 1 million since 2006. Yes, four newscasts: I have included “Fox Report With Shepard Smith” because the Fox News Channel, alone among cable networks, has a newscast of record and because it’s an option for viewers repelled by Couric’s so-called liberal slant.

Viewership over the half-decade has gone down at the two networks with female anchors and up at the two networks with male anchors. In fairness to Diane Sawyer, “ABC World News Tonight” lost a lot of its audience in the waning months of Charlie Gibson’s time there, and her audience has actually leaped up by 1.2 million viewers in 2011.

Even more impressive is the gain of 1.3 million viewers this year by “NBC Nightly News,” anchored by Brian Williams, who in 2009 took back the mantle from Gibson as the most-watched news anchor.

Barnhart credits the DVR, which, while use by only a small percentage of evening news viewers, tends to skew much younger. Ans as Barnhart points out, 26.5 million people still watch the newscasts nightly, not chump change by any stretch of the imagination.