Top 5 Largest TV Markets in the US
Updated: September 13,2022
The television landscape is changing. With cord-cutting on the rise, people are watching less traditional television and turning more to streaming services. This has led to a shift in markets with the largest TV audiences.
According to a 2021 study carried out by Nielsen, the market with the largest TV audience is now New York, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. Philadelphia and Dallas-Fort Worth round out the top five among the Designated Market Areas.
In this article, we will focus solely on television markets, rather than the media market as a whole. The media market includes television stations, radio stations, news, and internet content. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five largest TV markets in the US.
New York City, NY
With as many as 4.5 billion people spending time on the internet, according to 2020 statistics, viewers are inclined to dedicate less of their time to television. As expected, New York has managed to top the TV market rankings.
As of 2021, according to the Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) rankings, there are 7,452,620 TV households in this city. What’s more, the number of viewers in the broadcasting year 2021/2022 was around 20.4 million. Some of the most popular New York TV channels include WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV, and WNYW-TV.
NBC network’s New York flagship station, WNBC-TV (Channel 4), was established in 1941. However, its origins can be traced back to 1921, when an experimental station, W2XBS, was created. Not only is New York number one among top TV markets, but its WNBC-TV station became the first commercial television station in the US.
WCBS-TV (Channel 2) is another heavily watched New York station. Operated by CBS News and Stations, WCBS-TV started out as an experimental station in 1931, when it was called W2XAB. The channel airs a wide variety of programs, from health and finance to sports and entertainment. The most popular programs on this channel include Big Brother, Dr. Phil, and The Price Is Right.
WNYW-TV (Channel 5) is the New York flagship of the Fox network. It was founded in 1938 as the experimental station W2XVT. Its viewers can watch TV shows like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory, as well as entertainment news like Extra.
Los Angeles, CA
While children used to watch content such as cartoons on TV, nowadays, over one half of kids aged 5-15 watch video content on streaming services. So, not only are minors on their phones a lot, but adults typically use their phones for 3 hours and 15 minutes every day. On the whole, this means that less time is being spent watching TV.
Even with such heavy mobile phone usage, Los Angeles takes second place when it comes to TV viewership in Nielsen market rankings. The number of TV households in LA is 5,735,230, and there are 17.2 million viewers in total. The city’s top stations include KCBS-TV, KNBC-TV, and KTLA-TV.
KCBS-TV (Channel 2) is the oldest continuously operating television station on the US West Coast. Much like its NYC counterparts, it started out as an experimental station, W6XAO-TV, which began broadcasting in 1931. The fact that it won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for Best News Program in 1989 speaks to the quality of the content it has been creating for almost a century now.
KNBC-TV (Channel 4) was founded in 1947, and broadcasted for the first time two years later, as KNBH. The name was first changed to KRCA, and later to KNBC. Programs available on Channel 4 include Today, California Live, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
KTLA-TV (Channel 5) is the second-biggest CW Television Network affiliate in terms of US TV market size that isn't owned and run by Paramount Global, which is a co-owner of the network. It’s also the largest property that Nexstar Media Group owns directly. Currently, you may find TV shows like Friends and Two and a Half Men on the channel.
Next on the DMA list is Chicago, a city that has 3,471,560 TV households. The number of viewers for the year 2021/2022 was 9.24 million. The Chicago TV stations that boast the largest number of viewers include WBBM-TV, WMAQ-TV, and WLS-TV.
The first commercial television station in Chicago was WBKB-TV, which began broadcasting in 1946. It became the first commercial station whose location wasn’t in the Eastern Time Zone. The station is now known as WBBM-TV (Channel 2) and is an affiliate of the CBS network.
In 1948, WMAQ-TV (Channel 5), an NBC-owned station, was established. The programming that can be found on the channel includes news, weather forecast, talk shows, and long-running soap operas like Days of Our Lives.
WLS-TV (Channel 7) is Chicago’s oldest continually operating station, as it’s been broadcasting since 1940. Currently an affiliate of the ABC network, this channel mainly airs news, talk shows, and reality shows.
The fourth DMA on the list of US TV markets is Philadelphia, with 2,997,360 TV households and 7.9 million viewers. The top television stations in this location include KYW-TV, WPVI-TV, and WCAU-TV.
KYW-TV (Channel 3) is Philadelphia’s first television station. Currently owned by the CBS network, it began as an experimental station in 1932. Back then, it was called W3XE-TV. The CBS 3 channel features programs like The Price Is Right, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Dr. Phil.
WPVI-TV (Channel 6) is an ABC affiliate that started broadcasting in 1947, initially using the call letters WFIL. The first program ever broadcast on the channel was a Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears game.
WCAU-TV (Channel 10) is owned and operated by NBC Owned Television Stations. It was initially a CBS station but switched to NBC in 1994. The channel features programs like Access Hollywood, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and Dateline.
Dallas - Fort Worth, TX
Dallas - Fort Worth concludes our largest TV markets list. There are currently 2,962,520 TV households in the Dallas - Fort Worth area and approximately 8 million viewers. Channels like KDFW-TV, KXAS-TV, and WFAA-TV are available to viewers who reside in this area.
KDFW-TV (Channel 4) began broadcasting in 1949 under the name KRLD-TV. Back then, it was a CBS affiliate, whereas today, the station is owned by Fox. Dallas - Fort Worth viewers may tune in to watch talk shows like Live With Kelly and Ryan and The Wendy Williams Show, as well as TV shows such as Modern Family, and many more.
KXAS-TV (Channel 5), an affiliate of NBC, went on air in 1948. Channel 5 debuted the first news footage in color in 1966, and was the first channel to do so. A little over a decade later, in 1977, NBC 5 became the first station to air a live intercontinental satellite report.
WFAA-TV (Channel 8) is an ABC affiliate that started being broadcast in 1949 under the name KBTV. It was originally owned by the Lacy-Potter TV Broadcasting Company but was sold to The A.H. Belo Corporation, in 1950. Belo was acquired by the Gannett Company in 2013.
Dallas - Fort Worth concludes our list of the biggest TV markets in the US. Apart from the television markets on our list, other significant markets include San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA; Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; Washington, DC (Hagerstown); and Boston, MA (Manchester).
So there you have it - these are the largest US TV markets. New York came out on top with about 7.5 million TV households and over 20 million viewers. It goes to show that even though people have been gravitating toward streaming services, there are still folks who like to tune in and watch their favorite TV channels from the comfort of their living room sofa.
Frequently Asked Questions
The largest television market in the US is New York City. So far, it has approximately 20.4 million viewers.
Nielsen has identified 210 DMA zones that cover the whole United States.
Phoenix takes the 11th spot when it comes to the largest TV markets in the US, with a viewership of 2,158,240 individuals.
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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.