March 25, 2009

Post-Obamamania, Big 3 Nets’ Evening News Viewership Decline Resumes

All that cheerleading for Obama-Biden, and all they got was a continuation of their lousy long-term ratings drop.

Perhaps one reason why Big 3 network coverage of the 2008 presidential election was so heavy on fawning favoritism towards Barack Obama and Joe Biden combined with all-out attacks on John McCain and Sarah Palin was that the belief that an Obama presidency might revive interest in their declining evening newscasts.

If so, that strategy has spectacularly failed. Nine weeks into Obama’s presidency, it’s clear that after a short-lived revival, the audiences for NBC’s Brian Williams, ABC’s Charles Gibson, and especially CBS’s Katie Couric are smaller than ever, and that (with the exception of NBC’s Williams) the remainder who are still tuning in are older than ever.

After a significant post-election rise that peaked during the first full week after Obama’s inauguration, the viewership drop at all three networks has been steep, to the point where all three have fewer people tuning in than they did a year ago at this time (source: the Evening News Ratings page at Media Bistro):


From their respective levels during the week of January 26, NBC, ABC, and CBS are down 17%, 15%, and 21%, respectively. As a whole, as seen above, they’re off 17.4%. In the coveted 25-54 demo, the decline from January 26 is even worse (off 26%, 19%, and 26%). An astonishing 70% of viewers are not in the 25-54 demo, and it can be safely assumed that the vast majority of those are 55 or over.

It looks like the geniuses at the Big 3 Nets got the worst of both worlds: They lost even more older viewers, not in small part because of their obviously biased coverage, and they couldn’t hold onto younger people who, at least during the election, were disproportionately Obama fans. Too bad, so sad.

We now return to our regularly scheduled evening news show meltdown.

Cross-posted at



  1. From a business standpoint, if GE were to sell off parts of CBS to the other two, it could prolong their life long enough to wait out the economic downturn at a time when CBS stock is relatively cheap. Of course from a business standpoint the lib bias has to go along with the agenda based programming but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The stock owners are held captive to the content decision makers since obviously stock owners don’t have the expertise in deciding content. Given the make up of the GE BOD, they are not likely wont to fiddle with the content either.

    GE would be wise to dump CBS now while the getting out is good because the long term trend line is not running in their favor. I would think parts of CBS would be more valuable than it’s whole in this market.

    Comment by dscott — March 25, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  2. The March drop-off is a seasonal phenomenon – related to the arrival of Daylight Savings Time

    Comment by T — March 25, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  3. #2, that doesn’t explain the year-over-year drop-off of 5.9% overall and 7.7% in the 25-54 demo. DST conversion is in both years.

    Comment by TBlumer — March 25, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

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