During the week of March 12, after the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, the audience for the evenings newscasts at the Big Three networks dropped precipitously compared to the previous week (by 7.7%) and the same week last year (by 9.0%).
Perhaps the year-over-year metric is an unfair comparison, because during the same week in 2011 the Japanese tsunami drew in ordinarily uninterested viewers. Compared to two years ago, the combined audience was slightly higher (by 2.1%). NBC and ABC were both down slightly, while CBS, recovering from the Katie Couric era and still in a distant third place, showed a double-digit gain. But the three networks were down in the advertiser-prized 25-54 demographic, with CBS eking out a much smaller gain which did not offset losses at NBC and ABC. Here are the numbers:
All three networks have seen the 25-54 component of their viewership shrink compared to two years ago.
The post-Daylight Saving Time total audience drop-offs in 2011 and 2010 were 4.4% and 11.5%, respectively. The respective changes in the 25-54 demographic were +0.7% and -12.7%.
Perhaps it's isolated, because NBC and ABC have generally increased their audiences by modest percentages since last fall, while CBS has done even better. But given that this is a presidential election year, one might expect year-over-year improvement, despite the tsunami's impact on last year. The prospects for improvement going forward seem dim. Frequent instances of sub-20 million combined audiences seem more than a little likely. If they come, some of the reason will be that audiences have learned that they won't get fair and balanced reporting from Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, and Scott Pelley, especially about those electoral contests.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.