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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

WTOL-TV has been news leader for decades

That 800-pound gorilla in your living room for more than 25 years is WTOL-TV, Channel 11.

With the exception of a few ratings periods, the CBS affiliate has been the dominant force in local television news since the early 1980s.

As you can tell, old habits die hard in the nation s 71st-largest television market.

And that s a big reason why Channel 11 has been able to stay on top. Chrissy Redrup, a media buyer for Communica, Inc., of Toledo, said WTOL benefits from the fact that more than half of the news viewers in the area are 35 or older. The station also has strong national programming.

"Those viewers have old habits and they tend to consume news in a traditional way," Redrup said. "Once they get stuck on one television station, they tend to keep it there. And it s hard to get them to change their habits.

Chirdon Chirdon
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"Plus, WTOL is ingrained in the community."

WTVG-TV, Channel 13, has fought hard to close the gap on Channel 11. But despite having the No. 1 morning news show for more than four years, the ABC affiliate remains No. 2 for overall viewers in a four-station market.

Toledo s two other TV stations, WNWO-TV, Channel 24, and WUPW-TV, Channel 36, don t have the resources to ever seriously challenge WTOL or WTVG.

A common thread between Channel 11 and Channel 13 is that both stations have popular co-anchors at 6 and 11, with Chrys Peterson and Jerry Anderson on WTOL and Lee Conklin and Diane Larson on WTVG.

The most recent ratings book for February won t be released until later this month, but in November, 2006, Channel 11 won four out of five time slots in the local weekday newscasts, according to Nielsen Media Research.

WTOL had the most-watched newscasts at noon, 5, 6 and 11 p.m.

Channel 11 also held a slight edge over Channel 13 for viewers in the all-important 25-to-54 age bracket, the demographic that generates the most advertising revenue.

It s pretty obvious that WTOL has rebounded from its summer swoon of 2002, when Channel 13 overtook Channel 11 in three of the five weekday newscasts in back-to-back ratings books in May and July.

Zamichow Zamichow
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The Disney-owned station also ascended to No. 1 among viewers 25-54 during that same time period.

"Channel 11 has had the No. 1 show in town for a long time," said George Welling, a media buyer for Triple "L" Productions in Lambertville. "That s how the general population views it.

"They don t care about incomes and ages and demographics. Channel 11 s dominance the last 25 years speaks for itself."

General manager Bob Chirdon sees no reason why Channel 11 can t keep chugging along.

"The amount of faith that people have in this station, I think that s something that s accrued over decades of excellence," he said. "And it isn t lost overnight. We have never been a complacent No. 1."

WTVG, which recently switched to an unusual three-anchor format on its highly-successful morning news show, has made some gains on WTOL at noon and 6, according to the latest Nielsen ratings.

Yet, Channel 13 continues to play catch-up with Channel 11, which is owned by Raycom Media, Inc.

The popularity of the show that runs before the local news can also be a plus. Oprah is a very strong lead-in for WTOL s evening news programs.

"Channel 11 is a very good news operation," WTVG general manager Dave Zamichow said. "I think we have a good news operation. Channel 11 has some advantages over us. One of their big advantages is they ve got Oprah at 4 o clock.

Not only is Oprah a strong program, but people who watch Oprah tend to watch local news and tend to stay involved.

"So we figure if we had Oprah, which we don t because CBS does, maybe that would make a major difference overall."

WTOL-TV news anchors Jerry Anderson and Chrys Peterson participate in a  fund-raiser for the Fair Housing Center. WTOL-TV news anchors Jerry Anderson and Chrys Peterson participate in a fund-raiser for the Fair Housing Center.
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In November of 1979, the three TV stations operating in town at the time WTOL, WTVG, and WDHO-TV (now WNWO) each captured a 29 percent share of the total viewing audience.

That s rare, because one station normally dominates the market.

In February and May of 1981, WTVG held the lead in the key areas over WTOL.

But by November of 1981, Channel 11 had the largest audience for its newscasts in every category.

Not much has changed since, although Channel 13 has made it a pretty interesting race at times.

"When you talk about a station s dominance, it s one of those loaded words," Channel 13 news director Brian Trauring said. "When you look at total number of households who watch, that tells one story. But when you look at the 25-54 demographics, it s a very close race. We ve gained quite a bit on Channel 11.

"We re always trying to look at what we can do to make things better. Certainly, our morning show has been very good for us, but we have to make sure we stay in front and deliver the best possible program to our audience."

WTOL news director Mitch Jacob would like nothing better than to end Channel 13 s run in the morning.

"I want to win every newscast, and we will," he said. "If you add up our numbers, more people watch our newscasts at 5, 6, and 11 than all other stations combined."

WTOL has 212,000 total viewers for those three newscasts compared to 198,500 for the other three stations combined, including Fox s 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows, according to Nielsen.

No matter how you crunch the numbers, Channel 11 has been the King Kong of Toledo television for more than a quarter of a century.



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