The television news business is trying hard to catch up with rapidly changing technology.
Americans are getting more of their news from their Twitter feeds, friends' Facebook posts and websites such as Reddit. There are live bloggers who chronicle events as they unfold — now they can even stream live video with their smartphones.
But TV news is still overwhelmingly watched on televisions. Although the landscape has become more challenging, TV news can still be a lucrative endeavor. The morning shows each generate hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue for their networks.
The evening newscasts remain vital to each network's image, and after years of fighting off irrelevancy, are now seeing a ratings renaissance. Cable news outlets are big profit centers for their corporate parents, and while their audience levels appear to have plateaued, they can still set the agenda for what the country will be talking about.
Every day and night, these programs and networks battle for viewers' attention. Here is how they fared, according to Nielsen, in 2014:
Unlike any other news program, the nation's morning shows have always hinged entirely on personalities.
So the pressure was on
But the network did not come to terms with newsreader Josh Elliott and longtime weather forecaster Sam Champion, leading to their departures and a potential disruption in the alchemy that helped "Good Morning America" topple
Champion was replaced in December 2013 by his backup, Ginger Zee, and
"When we had to make changes, we made very quick and bold decisions," said Tom Cibrowski, senior vice president for ABC News and former executive producer of "Good Morning America."
The folks at "Today" have to be a little envious over how seamlessly "Good Morning America" absorbed its cast changes.
The NBC show's inner maneuverings have been gossip column fodder since the fouled-up handling of
This fall, NBC hired Jamie Horowitz, a production whiz from ESPN, to oversee a total revamp of the program. But after word leaked out that he wanted to do a clean sweep of the anchor desk — angering the talent and his bosses — he was shown the door.
Even in second place, "Today" remains one of the most profitable shows in television and still pulls in a higher rate than "Good Morning America" for its commercial time, thanks to the legacy of its brand name. Matt Lauer, popular among viewers, extended his contract for two more years.
But competitors believe "Today" needs a new, consistent plan of attack if it wants to return to No. 1. "Good Morning America" has seen its ad revenues grow by 30% since it took over the top spot in 2012.
The third-place program, "
"It's an absolute concern and it's something that we look at," Licht said of the lagging 25-54 demo rating, which he believes will grow over time. "We're still in a building phase. These things take time. The mission here is to do news."
Now that viewers can watch news as it happens throughout the day on a mobile device, the nightly evening newscast feels like it should be an outdated remnant from the era of Big Three TV network hegemony.
But in 2014, each of the programs saw audience gains.
"Not only are rumors of our death greatly exaggerated — we are a growth stock," NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said in a recent interview. "And I have a secret theory that perhaps the best thing that happened to us is the rise of other media devices. The miniaturization of everything else has made us loom a little larger."
Williams' program is up 5% to an average audience of 8.9 million viewers. "ABC World News Tonight With
The ratings boost may be the result of having three programs — which once routinely summarized the same events in lockstep — that are more distinctive from each other than they have been in recent memory.
"ABC plays to its strengths with a faster pace and a higher story count," said Steve Capus, executive producer of the CBS Evening News.
"CBS has a smaller number of stories and we go deeper with our journalism. Brian is an immensely talented personality and NBC strikes a middle ground," he said. "Each of us is giving our audiences different options and that's not always been the case."
While evening network newscasts are resilient, the maturing cable news business now finds itself coping with audience erosion.
The bright spot was for Fox News Channel, No. 1 in cable news for the 13th consecutive year.
FNC towered over other cable news channels in prime with 1.76 million viewers, which includes 301,000 in the 25-54 demographic. CNN averaged 515,000 viewers — a 9% decrease; and 181,000 in the demographic, which is about even with 2013. MSNBC averaged 590,000 viewers, down 8% — and its demo audience declined 17% to 169,000.
CNN has made a tactical decision to supplement its news coverage with original series programming aimed at drawing younger viewers who are more appealing to advertisers.
The episode premieres of CNN series with Anthony Bourdain,
The NBC-owned channel is most likely to see an overhaul in 2015, as its lineup of progressive-leaning political talk shows have faded.