The One Network Evening Newscast That’s Growing

By Chris Ariens 

While ratings for the evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC are down compared to February 2016, the venerable PBS NewsHour is growing.

NewsHour, anchored by Judy Woodruff, is up +11 percent for the most recent four weeks of programming vs. the same period last year. According to TRAC data (based on Nielsen numbers of local metered markets), NewsHour draws about 1.1 million viewers per episode. While that is dwarfed by the broadcast programs anchored by Lester Holt, David Muir and Scott Pelley, those newscasts have lost a combined 1.15 million viewers since last February.

NewsHour’s coverage of the campaign, the election and the first 100 days of the Trump administration is resonating with viewers. For the period from October – January the show is up +24 percent vs. the same period a year earlier.

“We pride ourselves on delivering the news without the noise and allowing our audience to be presented with the facts to make informed decisions,” said Sara Just, ep of NewsHour. “Our continued growth across platforms demonstrates there is a growing desire for in-depth, thoughtful reporting on the timely stories of the day.”

The show’s digital platforms are on the rise too. From December through February, the site’s homepage averaged 6.5 million users (+63 percent vs. the prior year).
YouTube views hit 12.6 million (+181 percent) and Facebook views topped 23 million (+75 percent.)

“I see it as reaching an audience that may or may not be consuming our broadcast,” said Just of the show’s online profile. “Expanding our overall audience is a critical part of our business as we grow our reach and deliver thoughtful journalism to audiences wherever they may be.”

Born from PBS’s coverage of the Watergate hearings in 1973, the nightly broadcast launched in 1975 and was anchored by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer. The show expanded to an hour, and was renamed The NewsHour, in 1983. MacNeil departed in 1995, while Lehrer remained with the broadcast until 2011. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors of the broadcast in 2013 — the first female co-anchor team ever on network TV. Following Ifill’s death in November, Woodruff has been solo anchor.