How to Use Cable News to Drive Optimal Advertising Results

There are two schools of thought around advertising in cable news: For some advertisers, particularly those in the political category, the value of news is so great they often over-index on news programming to the detriment of their overall reach and target audience delivery. For many others — in fact, nearly half of Effectv clients — news is intentionally not included in their media plan, causing them to miss large swaths of audience and the benefits of reach against a highly engaged set of viewers.

With the recent writers’ and actors’ strikes having upended timelines for scripted programming, it is more important than ever for advertisers to consider — or, perhaps, reconsider — the value and opportunity of non-entertainment content, such as cable TV news, in their audience-buying mix.
For brand advertisers, there are three powerful benefits to advertising in news content: scale, brand-building, and engagement.

1. News Networks Deliver Unique Audiences and Reach

In 2022, there were nearly 3 billion viewing hours spent with cable news, accounting for 11 percent of the six hours that consumers spend watching linear programming each day, according to Comcast aggregated viewership data. The same data shows audiences that tune in to cable news are more likely to be college educated and/or have a very high household net worth.

In addition to driving high engagement among consumers in a fragmented TV landscape, including news in one’s media plan can also deliver crucial incremental audience reach. A recent Effectv analysis of 70,000 TV-only campaigns showed that 25 percent of household reach share in the first quarter of 2023 was unique to news in Comcast aggregated viewership data and could have been missed without including it.

2. Advertising in Cable News Programming Builds Brand Trust

According to the 2020 IAB research report “The News Trust Halo,” 84 percent of news consumers feel that advertising within news programming either increases brand trust or maintains it. And although some advertisers are hesitant to place their messages in news programming because they assume it might negatively affect their brand, this assumption doesn’t withstand scrutiny. In fact, the IAB’s report shows that nine out of 10 news viewers didn’t think that sensitive content had a negative impact on the brand/advertiser shown. Interestingly,’s “Trust in Media 2023” poll, which surveyed more than 1,500 U.S. adults, found that, unlike news on TV, respondents had a net negative view of the trustworthiness of news stories shared on social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok.

As Forbes notes in a 2021 article, the key to building trust in a brand through news is selecting programming from a high-quality, trusted, and well-respected news source that has been proven to increase brand favorability, research intent, and purchase intent.

3. News Creates Engagement that Results in Action

News content is very effective in grabbing audience attention, which can often lead to higher brand recall for advertising messages that appear within it. In a 2018 report by MediaScience and CNN cited in a 2020 ARF presentation, the percent of time spent looking at an ad was actually higher in news content compared to entertainment content, which also resulted in higher aided brand recall. Additionally, the IAB report notes that brands that advertise within news are likely to see significant lift across the actions consumers take toward purchase, such as visiting the brand’s website or recommending the brand to others.

While there are a lot of merits to advertising in news content, like any other singular content genre, it’s not the panacea for building a successful TV strategy, and the optimal amount of news for any campaign will vary. Smart TV advertisers should follow data-based, audience-led best practices and let that approach guide them to the right mix of news and non-news programming to maximize reach and effectively engage their target audience. TV content — news included — has evolved a great deal even in the past decade. Today there are more sources, channels, and ways to watch than ever before across both traditional and streaming. What remains constant is that news delivers big reach and high attention against a large audience of consumers.

In a complex and fragmented landscape, it is imperative that advertisers leverage effective genres, such as the news, because, when done well with the right message and balance, premium news content offers advertisers an invaluable way to build their brands by reaching engaged, hard-to-find audiences at scale.

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