ABC’s Prime TV News Is Mostly For The Elderly
Aunty ABC is turning into Great Aunt ABC. Only eight percent of the ABC’s 7pm TV news bulletin audience is under 40, and more than 80 per cent are over 55 years old.
That’s the worrying state for the national broadcaster, according to a report in The Australian Financial Review.
It goes further, with bad news for the broadcaster’s iView app which isn’t necessarily attracting younger viewers to two of its important political and current affairs shows.
“Documents obtained by the Financial Review detail viewership information for the 7pm news bulletin across one week in late June, and for the broadcaster’s two prominent news panel programs, Q&A and Insiders,” the paper says.
“To counteract this, broadcasters have been investing heavily in their own streaming platforms and building channels on YouTube and TikTok,” says the report. “However, even including viewership on the ABC’s iView video-on-demand service, the organisation’s audience numbers for Q&A and Insiders tell a familiar story – more than 70 per cent of the viewers are over 55.”
It’s a tough situation to address, but the ABC is not alone in experiencing the impact of social media and streaming services on younger viewer consumption habits.
US-based research by the American Press Institute found that while Americans aged 16 to 40 are avid news consumers, “the vast majority of Gen Z and Millennials (79 percent) get their news daily (from other sources). Fully 96 per cent report doing so at least weekly.”
“Gen Z and Millennials, moreover, consume news from a wide range of sources. That mix includes traditional national and local news outlets such as newspapers, TV news stations, their websites, or apps, the institute says. “It also includes a wide range of social media platforms — including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitch, and Nextdoor.”
While it says 74 percent of Gen Z and Millennials consume news from traditional sources at least once per week, that figure will be cold comfort to networks.
Things are similar in the UK. Last year, a survey by Ofcom found that social media had overtaken traditional channels for news among teens.
“Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are now their (teens) top three most used sources for news. Meanwhile many sources have seen decreases since 2021, with reach of BBC One/Two decreasing to 24 per cent in 2022, down from 35 percent in 2021.”
That’s a huge drop in a year. Public broadcasters must be concerned about their longer term public funding if their audiences shrink with generational change.
It goes without saying that streaming services also have radically changed younger viewing habits with 75 percent of 18 to 34 year olds gravitating to Netflix but just 44 percent of those aged 65 or over, according to one survey.
The ABC’s problem go beyond free-to-air news bulletins. The AFR report includes a generational shift away from its ABC iView platform, where more than 70 per cent of the viewers watching Q&A and Insiders on iView are over 55, the paper reports.
It’s another indicator that ABC needs to publish more content on the same social media platforms that younger people frequent. They have to go where their audiences are. While the data around Q&A and Insiders is just two programs, it does suggest iView and apps may not be the total answer to garnering young audiences.
The ABC is across this. Last month it announced a five-year “digital-first” policy which prioritises developing content for digital markets.
There is scope for more radical experiments such as “choose-your own” interactive news content services that it could try online.
Just as Netflix has been developing interactive features for its services, the ABC and other media online could give younger audiences the ability to shape their own news bulletins, with news items compiled based on their topic preferences.
ABC Prime News bulletins and commercial ones, despite the often good content, are predictable in the general topics they cover – politics, the law courts, crime, a bit of science, health, a dose of often American entertainment, and a huge dose of sport. The ABC covers rugby league almost every night.
Perhaps the corporation needs to look at giving viewers more control over the news topics they watch in streamed news bulletins.
But the concept of a prime news “bulletin” at a designated time itself may be under threat, with young consumers taking in news all day long in dribs and drabs. They may not be interested in sitting down religiously at 7pm to watch it.