How You Can Grow Ratings

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By Tim Wolff
VP of TV & Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri Media

I talk to a lot of News Directors who've told me that their ratings are in perpetual decline. Stations that a decade ago saw 10 rating points in a newscast now tell me they are happy if they get 1 rating point. They usually cite Netflix and smartphones for taking eyeballs away from traditional TV. Sometimes they'll tell me that their network prime-time lead-ins have dropped, and their late newscasts right along with them.

While there can be legitimate reasons for some ratings decline, most I hear are excuses masking problems in the value of their newscasts. Before any streamers and social media, local tv stations had a 60-year head start on branding and bringing value to viewers. Don't give that advantage away.

For starters, no news director should think the goal is to "hang on" to as much prime audience as possible. The goal is to create intentional viewing so viewers will decide to turn to you at 10 or 11 p.m. (or any time of day). And if the eyeballs are on the smartphones? Then you find those eyeballs and tell them why they should turn on the TV (or your own stream) to your newscast.

How do you do that? There are some great lessons captured by Paul Greeley of TVNewsCheck in this article about KARE11 in Minneapolis. It's worth reading. To me, there are two big takeaways for any newsroom: you have to create newscasts worth watching and tell potential viewers about those newscasts everywhere you can find them.

That means you've got to have the right promotions in the right format at the right times on the right platforms. Sure, a prime-time topical in your network show can help, but many of your viewers aren't there. You need to reach them on their phones, which means reaching them on social, your apps and any platform they are using on their phones. 

The promo you make for TV probably shouldn't be the promo you put on Facebook … which should also be different from the Instagram promo, the TikTok promo, or the Twitter promo. Thankfully, there is help for you. TopicPulse ContentAdvantage shows you the stories your potential viewers will be interested in during your next newscast, and Instant Video makes it easy to create the videos you need in every format.

Great promotion strategies only go so far if the product isn't valuable to the viewers. I write more about how to have higher-value newscasts here.

There is good news for those worried about TV losing eyeballs to other platforms: more people are watching free TV. Horowitz reports TV antenna ownership among young adults is up to 23% — more than 50% growth in one year. The #1 reason? They want local television news. It's up to you to show them why your station is where they should watch it.

Tim Wolff is the VP of TV & Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri Media. To learn more or continue the conversation, email him at or message him on Linkedin at