Hearst: Local TV was primary source for Irene news


Fresh survey out from Hearst Television finds that adults in selected communities impacted by Hurricane Irene were very engaged with tracking the storm’s path, impact and aftermath – and local broadcast television was by far their preferred source for news updates and other information.

The survey, conducted September 19-22 by Marshall Marketing, included respondents in three markets served by Hearst stations, which were significantly impacted by flooding and other damage from the hurricane:  Baltimore, Boston and the Burlington, Vermont/Plattsburgh, New York TV markets. The survey was included 1,400 respondents – 500 each in Baltimore (the nation’s #27 TV market, as ranked by market size by Nielsen) and Boston (the #7 TV market), and 400 in Burlington/Plattsburgh (the #95 TV market).

Survey highlights:
Local TV ranked first – at 39% – among news sources selected by respondents when asked “Where did you first learn Hurricane Irene was approaching your area?”  The Internet ranked a distant second, at 16%; all other news sources were cited by 11% or fewer respondents.

When asked, “While tracking Hurricane Irene, where were you getting key or critical information about the storm or weather?” 66% cited local TV news.

The Hearst television stations – WBAL-TV, Baltimore; WCVB-TV, Boston; and WPTZ-TV/WNNE-TV, Burlington/Plattsburgh – were most often cited by respondents in these markets when asked, “While tracking Hurricane Irene, where were you getting key or critical information about the storm or weather?” and “Which local television station did you watch most often for Hurricane Irene coverage?” 

Similarly, these stations’ websites were cited as the most-used local-TV sites.  Additionally, an average of more than 95% of viewers responded that they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the Hearst stations’ coverage.

With so few battery-powered portable DTVs in the hands of consumers, Hearst had to look at other media for gauging media use for households losing power.  40% of all respondents continued to track the storm via means other than local TV and returned overwhelmingly to local TV when power was restored:

•         A large portion of respondents indicated that, while they were without power, they turned to the radio for information; 

•         In Baltimore, Hearst’s WBAL-AM was by far the most popularly used radio station in that market, more than doubling the response rate of the #2 station;

•         In total among all the markets, 16% listened to a TV broadcast on the radio;

•         Once power was restored, 50% said they returned to local TV news as their information source, followed distantly by the Internet (14%).

•         30% of adults received an alert on a mobile device, led by use of weather apps;

•         When asked, “If you received an alert from a local TV station, which station was it?” the Hearst station was cited by the most respondents in each market, by a significant margin.

Among the broader findings, 85% of all adults in these markets were tracking Irene as it impacted their region; 54% said they were “very prepared” for the storm; 42% said they were “somewhat prepared.”  When asked, “What would you do differently the next time a hurricane or storms are headed for your area?” the #1 and # 2 responses were “Nothing” (44%), and “Make sure I have more batteries in the house” (24%).

RBR-TVBR observation: We can’t quite call these results typical for markets across the US, but they definitely nail down some trends. One of them shows that hands down, when the power goes out, radio comes to the rescue. Also, when the power goes out, it’s pretty obvious very few people have portable DTVs receiving the standard ATSC signal (works best when the receiver is stationary).

For Mobile DTV stations, according to The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), 96 stations are now on-the-air with Mobile DTV signals and the total number of Mobile DTV stations is expected to grow to 126 in 48 markets by the end of the year. While the numbers imply these receivers are not being purchased enough to show up in the survey as well (and Mobile DTV stations are currently in Boston and Baltimore), the reality is that public WGBH-TV is currently the only station with mobile DTV signals in Boston; and WNUV-TV (The CW) in Baltimore, according to the OMVC website.

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