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Published: Friday, 3/30/2012

Channel 11 sees ratings rebound

WTOL-TV bounces back with remarkable February Nielsen's turnaround

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The February Nielsen's marked a significant swing from the most recent ratings book in November to now favor WTOL-TV, Channel 11, which recorded a strong performance among area viewers.

In the November sweeps, WTOL trailed WTVG-TV, Channel 13, in total local viewership in all but two of the stations' head-to-head newscasts, with one statistical tie. Last month, however, the CBS affiliate won five of the six competing time slots, including a rare morning ratings victory.

From 5 to 6 a.m., an average of 19,500 total viewers tuned in to Channel 11 newscast, 33,000 from 6 to 7 a.m., 42,000 from noon to 12:30 p.m., 59,000 from 5 to 6 p.m., 85,000 from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and 54,000 from 11 to 11:30 p.m. In the same time periods Channel 13 was watched by an average total audience of 17,000, 39,000 35,000, 46,500, 62,000, and 37,000 respectively. WTVG won the 6 to 7 a.m. newscast, 39,000 to 33,000, but even that ratings race was significantly closer than November's, when Channel 13 attracted 52,000 viewers to the same time slot compared to Channel 11's 27,000.

In fact, WTVG saw an erosion in total audience in all six of its time slots by an average of more than 5,500 viewers.

WTVG was also down in total viewers compared to the February, 2011, ratings, in which the ABC affiliate won four of the six newscasts and tied for another in total viewers ages 2 and older.

Given the station's ratings dominance through all of last year, WTVG news director Brian Trauring cautioned not to read too much into the latest numbers.

"It's important to examine ratings trends over time and with context," he said. "[WTVG] enjoys terrific ratings trends thanks to our many loyal viewers. We look forward to the next ratings period beginning in just a few weeks."

It wasn't all bad news for Channel 13. The station did well in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic advertisers most covet. The station was preferred over WTOL by 25 to 54-years-olds in five of the six head-to-head newscasts.

From 5 to 6 a.m., an average of 10,000 viewers in the key demographic watched WTVG, 23,000 from 6 to 7 a.m., 10,000 from noon to 12:30 p.m., 20,000 from 5 to 6 p.m., and 25,000 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. In the same time periods among the same target group, WTOL was watched by 8,500, 19,000, 9,000, 14,000, and 24,000 viewers respectively. Channel 11 was tops in the 25-to-54 category for its 11 p.m. newscast over Channel 13, 17,000 to 15,000, respectively. WTOL, which has the area's only 9 to 10 a.m. newscast, was watched by a total audience of 16,000, up 2,000 from November.

Even WTOL news director C.J. Hoyt was surprised by the drastically improved viewership for his station.

But of all the pro-Channel 11 numbers to be found in the February sweeps, the most impressive to him are the dramatic ratings improvements in the mornings, a previously no-contest war zone that has seen Channel 11 repeatedly stomped by Channel 13.

In November WTVG was watched by an average of more than 30,000 total viewers over WTOL weekday mornings for both hour-long news blocks. By February, though, that lead dropped to less than 4,000.

"The morning show audience is significantly higher for WTOL than it was in November," he said. "We think that's the biggest story to come out of the February ratings period. It's very exciting for us. We think it's a trend that will continue."

There hasn't been much good news lately for the newsroom of WUPW-TV, Channel 36. The LIN Media station is to be sold to American Spirit Media, and its newsroom will undoubtedly undergo a significant makeover -- including personnel changes -- under a shared-services agreement American Spirit Media has with Raycom, which owns and operates WTOL.

At least local viewers were kind to Channel 36 in the February sweeps.

The Fox affiliate was up from November for its two newscasts. The 6:30 to 7 p.m. was watched by 3,000 viewers and the 10 to 11 p.m. newscast by 20,000. That's an increase of 1,000 for the 6:30 news and 4,000 for the 10 p.m. from four months ago. In the 25-to-54 demographic, an average audience of 3,000 tuned in to the 6:30 p.m. WUPW newscast and 9,000 to its 10 p.m. WUPW does not compete head-to-head with any local newscast.

Several months ago WNWO-TV, Channel 24, instituted a philosophical change in the types of stories the station reports -- it now devotes more time to more upbeat news, leaving the bulk of the crime reporting to WTOL and WTVG.

The NBC affiliate saw a substantial bounce in total audience from November for its 6 to 6:30 p.m. newscast, which was watched by 10,000 area viewers, compared to 6,000 late last year. Its 5 to 6 a.m. and 6 to 7 a.m. newscasts remained stagnant in the ratings, however, with a total viewership of only 2,000, and its 11 to 11:30 p.m. newscast was down 1,000 viewers from November to 4,000. WNWO was watched by an average of 1,000 viewers in the 25 to 54 age demographic for both morning newscasts, 4,000 for its 6 p.m. news, and 1,000 for its 11 p.m. broadcast.

"I think we made some great strides both internally and especially in the community in the past year," said Amulya Raghuuveer, WNWO news director. "We did see some slight growth in the most recent ratings period. We're taking it in a positive direction. Everyone's still on board with our changes and we still have some more exciting changes to come."

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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