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Published: Friday, 6/16/2006

WTVG beats WTOL for key audience in 3 of 5 newscasts

BY RUSS LEMMON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For the first time since 2003, WTVG-TV, Channel 13, is leading Toledo's TV news race.

The ABC-owned station beat WTOL-TV, Channel 11, in the key demographic in three of the five time slots in which their newscasts go head-to-head during Nielsen Media Research's May "sweeps."

One of WTVG's time-slot victories was at noon, which is a first-time feat.

"It was a pleasant surprise, but we've put a considerable amount of effort into that newscast," WTVG news director Brian Trauring said.

Among viewers age 25 to 54, which is the demographic that generates the most advertising revenue, WTVG's noon newscast (anchored by Susan Ross Wells and Jeff Smith) had an audience share of 28 percent, compared to 19 percent for WTOL (Melissa Voetsch). WTOL, a CBS affiliate, still leads in total viewers at noon, however.

WTOL news director Mitch Jacob, citing the noon newscast's long run of being No. 1 in the key demo, dismissed the May numbers as a "fluke."

WTVG scored a decisive victory in the morning, halting the momentum WTOL had gained in the previous ratings period. In February, WTOL overtook WTVG in total viewers - and quickly aired promos in support of its newfound status.

From 5 to 7 a.m., WTVG (Rebecca Regnier and Smith) had a 45 share in the key demographic, followed by WTOL (Jerry Anderson and Voetsch) at 31. WTVG had the most total viewers as well, averaging 26,900 vs. 19,700 for WTOL.

In recent months, WTVG has used promos to try and differentiate its morning newscast from WTOL's.

"We've promoted that viewers tell us, 'Just give us the news.' I think people are responding," Trauring said. "Viewers don't want to feel like they're being sold something when they're watching the news."

It was the 14th consecutive ratings period that WTVG's morning newscast has been No. 1 in the 25-54 demo.

The other three time slots for local news - 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. - were hotly contested.

Among viewers age 25 to 54, WTOL edged WTVG at 5 p.m. (23 vs. 20 percent) and 6 p.m. (23 vs. 22), while WTVG topped WTOL at 11 p.m. (22 vs. 21).

NBC affiliate WNWO-TV, Channel 24, had single-digit shares in each time slot.

WTOL's Jacobs contends that his station has more 25-54 viewers at 11 p.m. than WTVG. According to Nielsen, WTOL had 27,400 viewers in that demo vs. 23,500 for WTVG.

WTVG general manager David L. Zamichow says WTOL is counting viewers from outside the Toledo market.

"Obviously, WTVG is forgetting that our viewing area is also southeast Michigan," Jacob said.

Zamichow said: "When he says they're coming from southeast Michigan, that's a wish, not a reality. At this moment, he has no idea where they're coming from."

Zamichow said they could be viewers from the Detroit, Cleveland, Lima, or Fort Wayne, Ind., markets.

"We are the No. 1 station in the [Toledo] market for adults 25 to 54 at 11 p.m.," Zamichow said.

There's a reason for the contentiousness between the two stations. They use Nielsen's ratings to set advertising rates. In 2005, the advertising pie for local TV stations was estimated at $50 million.

And that's why Jacob says WTOL's advantage in total viewers trumps WTVG's edge in the most important demographic for advertisers.

"We entered May as Toledo's news leader, and after the [ratings] book we're still Toledo's news leader," Jacob said.

The 6 p.m. newscasts combined for 127,000 viewers, the most of any time slot. That figure was down 10,000 from previous May.

WTOL (Chrys Peterson and Terry Thill) averaged 65,000 viewers, followed by WTVG (Diane Larson and Lee Conklin) at 50,000 and WNWO (Jennifer Stacy and Jim Blue) at 12,000.

The Simpsons on Fox affiliate WUPW-TV, Channel 36, averaged 12,000 viewers at 6 p.m.

WUPW (Laura Emerson and Karl Rundgren) averaged 26,000 viewers for its 10 p.m. newscast. Its 4 p.m. newscast averaged 6,000.

Nielsen's May sweeps ran from April 27 to May 24. The next ratings period is June 29 to July 26.

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



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