Local news programming this year has seen strong viewership growth as audiences seek the latest information about the pandemic. For advertisers seeking to convert viewers into new customers — especially as their buying habits change dramatically — local news also provides more concise targeting for both regional and national brands.

“We found that a lot of the marketers took advantage of local news coverage, and especially the credibility that came with this,” said Charlie Holmes, senior vice president of sales at New York Interconnect (NYI),  a joint venture among Charter, Altice and Comcast, in this interview with Beet.TV. “Local news has become especially critical for consumers to stay current when things are changing daily, and sometimes even hourly.”

Local news experienced a 265% jump in viewership in some dayparts, according to data compiled by VAB, with 80% of consumers said local TV news was the most reliable source of information about the pandemic.

The need for local news has been especially acute in the region surrounding New York City, where New Jersey, Connecticut and New York State have different, often conflicting policies on business lockdowns, travel restrictions, coronavirus testing and quarantining.

To respond to that hunger for local news, NY1 and  News12  developed specialized programming to help viewers understand nearby happenings, Holmes said. Among the shows were “One New York” on NY1 and “The New Normal” that gave viewers a chance to call in an speak to health experts and newsmakers.

“The news channels really shifted their focus to the consumer and gave us an opportunity for advertisers to sponsor these shows and really be a part of the information that consumers were craving,” Holmes said.

Power of ‘Conquesting’

The pandemic has disrupted the supply chains for a variety of products, leading to temporary shortages in everything from toilet paper to cleaning supplies to fresh food. With many consumers finding grocery shelves emptied of their favorite brands, they are more willing to experiment with new products and services than ever before.

“We’re at an infection point when this forced disruption has broken down brand loyalty,” Holmes said. “By choice or circumstance, consumers are trying different brands and services. This is a terrific opportunity for marketers to ‘conquest’ more established brands.”

While people are concerned about personal safety, they are still spending money on consumer goods and services. Total retail and food services sales have returned to their pre-pandemic trends, even as consumers cope with disruptions.

“We’ve become a ‘homebody’ economy. People may go out for groceries. They may entertain friends in the backyard, but they’re still reluctant to travel or go into crowded spaces,” Holmes said. “Brands who recognize these shifts in consumer behaviors will be the ones who survive and thrive, and clearly, television is a big part of how they message that out to the consumer.”

NYI saw national brands such as Bumblebee, Seamless, Boomer Naturals, Amgen, Goya, Salesforce, Hood, Novartis advertise in the New York region. Media brands like Netflix, Amazon Prime and cable networks also advertised more heavily to reach homebound consumers, Holmes said.

The return of sports programming also helped to drive viewership, he said. The airing of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary about NBA legend Michael Jordan and his final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, saw a huge a jump in ratings and indicated the hunger for sports-programming. As professional sports returned, viewers also turned into news about their favorite teams.

Looking ahead to 2021, Holmes said marketers are likely to take a holistic approach to their media buying, seeking placements on linear TV, over-the-top platforms and video on demand services.

“A holistic approach is important going into this next year,” he said. “We gained a lot of learnings from the roller coaster that was 2020. Whether the market is up or down, it’s important for brands to advertise. Brand that continue to advertise have a real advantage now that things are picking up.”

You are watching “Targeted Strategies, Big Impact: TV Powered by Data, Addressability and Consumer Choice,” a leadership video series from Beet.TV and VAB presented by New York Interconnect. For more videos, please visit this page