The 2009-2010 television season came to an end with a new front-runner in local news.
Results from Nielsen's May sweeps put WTVG-TV, Channel 13, ahead of its competitors. The ABC affiliate captured first place in four newscasts, and tied for first in the other two, in the age group that advertisers covet.
The Nielsen weekday numbers gave wins to Channel 13 for the 5 to 6 a.m., 6 to 7 a.m., and 5 to 6 p.m. news blocks, as well as the 6 p.m. half-hour newscast. The station was first not only in the 25 to 54-year-old demographic but also with all area viewers in those four news slots.
WTOL-TV, Channel 11, had the most viewers for the noon and 11 p.m. half-hour newscasts. But Channels 11 and 13 tied at noon and 11 p.m. among 25-to-54 year-old viewers.
Brian Trauring, WTVG news director, said the May numbers marked one of the best ratings periods he's had since joining the ABC affiliate eight years ago.
“Certainly it's got to be right up there,” he said. “The trend has been building for years. I would suggest that a lot of it is that we practice traditional, old-fashioned journalism. We're breaking stories that are important, making sure they are right and fair. And I think treating people with respect is a big part of it. My experience suggests that this approach is one that people respond to. We're not much for gimmicks.”
About 16,000 viewers tuned in to WTVG between 5 to 6 a.m., and 41,000 watched between 6 to 7 a.m. During those same newscasts, Channel 11 drew 13,000 and 26,000 total viewers.
The CBS affiliate, though, was helped by its noon numbers, with 37,000 total area viewers watching its newscast, compared to 33,000 watching Channel 13. Each station was watched by an average of 10,000 viewers age 25 to 54 at noon.
Channel 11 also won the 11 p.m. newscast ratings with total viewers over Channel 13, 52,000 to 44,000, but, like noon, both stations were deadlocked in the 25 to 54 demo with 18,000 viewers each.
Approximately 35,500 viewers tuned in to WTVG for the 5 to 6 p.m. newscast. WTOL narrowly trailed with 34,000 viewers in the same time slot.
Channel 11's only noncompetitive newscast, Your Day, which airs from 9 to 10 a.m. weekdays, dropped in total viewership from February, 20,000 to 11,000, breaking a growth trend for the news program.
Overall, it was a “disappointing book” for WTOL, said the station's news director, Andi Roman.
“In the time that I've worked here we've had a handful of disappointing books and I would count this as one of them,” she said.
But Roman also questioned the numbers from the February to May sweeps, saying, “The trending was kind of strange, particularly in the demos.”
As an example, she cited the figures for men in the 25-to-54 age group for the 6 to 7 a.m. newscast that showed WTOL's drop from 26,000 in February to 10,000 in May.
“Fifty-percent of our viewers in two months went away?” she said. “You're talking two months. It's not logical.”
Roman declined to discuss whether WTOL would make any adjustments as a result of the station's May ratings performance.
The 6 p.m. newscast remained the most-watched local program with 65,000 total viewers for WTVG, 56,000 for WTOL, and 7,000 for WNWO-TV, Channel 24. The 25-to-54 breakdown clearly favored WTVG over WTOL and WNWO, 24,000, 18,000, and 3,000, respectively.
May proved to be a good month for local Fox affiliate WUPW-TV, Channel 36. Thanks in part to the twice-weekly lead-in from Fox network's American Idol and its local connection with Crystal Bowersox, the station's 10 to 11 p.m. newscast ratings jumped dramatically from February. Channel 36 was watched by an average of 17,000 viewers in the 25 to 54 demo in May, compared to 10,000 in February, and 32,000 total viewers compared to 22,000 viewers.
“American Idol had a factor, but I can't tell you how much,” said WPUW news director Steve France. “Idol runs on one or two nights a week; we were up across the board. It was more than just Idol, we had a pretty good hand in it ourselves.
“My people worked very hard to make it the best book it could be. The way they presented the shows, the added sweeps series that we did. We really put a team effort into it. We knew with the programming that Fox was providing us that we would get noticed and the intent is for people to check us out and hopefully they like what they see and come back to us again.”
WUPW also improved in its 25- to 54-year-old viewership for its 6:30 p.m. newscasts from February, 2,000 to 3,000, but dropped in total viewers, 5,000 to 4,000, from the same ratings periods. The Channel 36 newscasts compete against network news on 11, 13, and 24.
WNWO lagged behind in all four of its competitive newscasts. Its 7:30 p.m. half-hour news, which competes against syndicated programming, was watched by 2,000 viewers overall, a significant drop from February. The NBC affiliate also shed more than half of its viewership for its 11 p.m. newscast, sinking from a total viewer audience of 14,000 in February to 6,000 in May.
Local television stations are now in July sweeps, with ratings being compiled by Nielsen from July 1-28.
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