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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

WNWO-TV newscasts gain on the competition

BY RUSS LEMMON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For years, it seems, WNWO-TV has been poised for a "breakthrough" ratings period.

It finally happened in May.

Sort of.

Although WNWO's newscasts are still No. 3 when up against WTOL-TV, Channel 11, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13, they are no longer a "distant third." Indeed, the gap between the NBC affiliate and the market's perennial news leaders has narrowed considerably.

The timing couldn't be better: Nielsen Media Research's "May sweeps" is considered the most important ratings period of the year.

Among viewers age 25 to 54, which is the demographic that generates the most advertising revenue for local stations, WNWO came close to tripling its audience share from the previous May at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and nearly doubled it at 11 p.m. Jim Blue and Jennifer Stacy are co-anchors for all three newscasts.

Meanwhile, WTOL and WTVG managed to increase their 25-54 audience shares in only one time slot for news -- 6 a.m.

The closest three-way race was at 11 p.m. In the key demographic, WTOL's audience share was 21 percent, followed by WTVG with 17 and WNWO with 14. (The respective shares from a year ago: WTOL, 22; WTVG, 20; and WNWO, 8.)

At 6 p.m., which has more news viewers than any time slot, WTOL's 25-54 audience share was 25 percent. WTVG was next with 16, and WNWO had 13. (The shares from a year ago: WTOL, 25; WTVG, 20; and WNWO, 5.)

"We are in the race," WNWO news director Lou Hebert said, "and these numbers prove we can win."

WTOL, a CBS affiliate, remained No. 1 in overall viewers. It had the most viewers in four of the five time slots, with 6 a.m. being the exception.

At 6 p.m., WTOL (with Chrys Peterson and Terry Thill as anchors) averaged 86,000 viewers, compared to 53,000 for WTVG (Diane Larson and Lee Conklin) and 22,000 for WNWO. At 11 p.m., WTOL averaged 70,000 viewers, while WTVG had 45,000 and WNWO 25,000.

"We had a very good ratings month," said John Butte, who has been WTOL's acting news director since April. "By winning the noon, 5, 6, and 11 o'clock newscasts again, the viewers of northwest Ohio continued to make News 11 their first choice for television news."

While WTOL's numbers remained roughly the same as a year ago, WNWO, though still in third place, saw a dramatic increase. Hebert said "from everything I can find," the 25-54 shares for the 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts are the highest in station history.

"We are obviously very pleased and feel these latest ratings results are a tangible affirmation of our commitment to strong news coverage," Hebert said. "We have always believed that if we stayed persistent in our quest for excellence, eventually the viewers would see the strength of our product and people, and would like what they see. With every major story, we are moving closer to that goal."

WTVG's morning newscast had the highest 25-54 share - 37 - of any newscast in the market. It had a 32 share a year ago. In the other four time slots, however, WTVG had a lower 25-54 share than the previous year.

WTVG news director Brian Trauring said the May numbers were not surprising, given the weak lead-in for the 5 p.m. news and ABC's struggling prime-time lineup.

WUPW-TV, Channel 36, had the same numbers for its 10 p.m. newscast as it did the previous May -- 29,000 viewers and a 9 percent share of the 25-54 audience.

This was the second ratings period for WUPW's 4 p.m. newscast. It averaged 5,000 viewers, an increase of 1,000 from February.

Television stations use Nielsen's ratings to set advertising rates. The next ratings period is July 8 to Aug. 4.

Contact Russ Lemmon at: rlemmon@theblade.com or 419-724-6122.



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