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Published: Wednesday, 12/21/2005

WTOL newscasts still top the ratings

BY RUSS LEMMON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For WTOL-TV, Channel 11, it was a fitting way to end the year.

During Nielsen Media Research's November "sweeps," the CBS affiliate won four of the five time slots in which its local newscasts go head-to-head with WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

The results were the same as in May and July, the previous two ratings periods.

Among viewers age 25 to 54, which is the demographic that generates the most advertising revenue for local stations, WTOL had the biggest audience share for newscasts at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.

WTVG prevented a WTOL sweep by winning at 5 a.m. WTVG has had the No. 1 morning newscast for three consecutive years, or 12 ratings periods.

But, unlike July, WTOL is within striking distance in the morning race. The station moved anchors Jerry Anderson and Melissa Voetsch to mornings in January, and they struggled in each of the first three ratings periods of the year. In November, however, the high-profile anchor tandem closed the gap considerably.

In July, WTVG's morning share in the 25-54 demographic was 40 percent, compared to 19 percent for WTOL. In November, WTVG (with co-anchors Rebecca Regnier and Jeff Smith) held a 34-28 advantage.

"I'm very happy," WTOL news director Mitch Jacob said. "We knew we had a good product, and viewers [through Nielsen's ratings] are now telling us that. We put a lot of work into it. We want to have that clean sweep."

WTOL has comfortable leads in the other four time slots.

WTVG general manager David L. Zamichow said he was "thrilled" with this ratings book because the station fared much better than it did the previous November. In the year-to-year comparison, the ABC-owned station cut WTOL's lead in half, and then some, at noon and 11 p.m. It also gained ground at 6 p.m.

WNWO-TV, Channel 24, was third in all four newscasts in which it competes against WTOL and WTVG. The NBC affiliate does not offer news at noon.

WNWO took a big ratings hit in May, and general manager Rick Lipps said the station is taking "baby steps" and moving in the right direction.

"Do I wish the numbers were better? Yes," Lipps said. "But am I happy with the trends? Yes."

At WUPW-TV, Channel 36, the audience for its newscasts held steady in the November-to-November comparison.

The Fox affiliate is the only station in the market with news at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.

WTOL's biggest margin of victory came at 5 p.m. Among viewers age 25 to 54, its audience share was 28 percent, followed by WTVG with 12 and WNWO with 9.

This was the second November that Chrys Peterson and Anderson have co-anchored WTOL's 5 p.m. news. The pairing, coupled with a powerful lead-in program in Oprah, proved to be too much for the competition. Last November, WTOL had a 23-16 lead in the key demographic.

For total viewers, the order of finish in each time slot was the same as the 25-54 rankings.

The 6 p.m. newscasts combined for 165,000 viewers, the most of any time slot. WTOL (Peterson and Terry Thill) averaged 97,000 viewers, followed by WTVG (Diane Larson and Lee Conklin) with 47,000 and WNWO (Jennifer Stacy and Jim Blue) with 21,000.

November might have been the final ratings periods for WTOL and WNWO under their current ownership. Raycom, which owns WNWO, is expected to take over WTOL within the next few months. Raycom has announced its intention to sell WNWO.

Nielsen's November "sweeps" ran from Nov. 3 to 30. The ratings books arrived at local stations yesterday.

Television stations use Nielsen's ratings to set advertising rates. The next ratings period is Feb. 2 to March 1.

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



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