The summer heat arrived early in May and with it a portion of the Toledo-area TV audience evaporated.
The big two in local ratings, WTOL-TV, Channel 11, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13, saw dramatic declines in viewership in two of their three evening newscasts from only a few months ago during February sweeps.
According to Nielsen, a total of 41,000 and 70,000 viewers watched WTOL's 5 to 6 p.m. and 6 to 6:30 p.m. newscasts, respectively, compared to 59,000 and 85,000 viewers in February.
It was the same for WTVG, which saw its total audience erode from February for the station's 5 to 6 p.m. and 6 to 6:30 newscasts, 29,000 and 56,000, respectively, compared to 46,500 and 62,000.
The 11 to 11:30 p.m. newscasts for both stations, however, reversed this strange phenomenon. Channel 11's newscast was up from February, 61,000 total viewers compared to 54,000, and Channel 13's viewership remained steady at 37,000 for both ratings periods.
Were these declines in overall evening numbers a case of area residents taking advantage of the warm temperatures and calm weather in May to turn off the TV and escape into the great outdoors? Or was it that network reruns turned off viewers and caused them to tune out TV?
Actually, it may have been neither. Nielsen acknowledged problems in its diary printing process, as reported by industry trade publication Media Daily News. The misprinting affected how Nielsen participants could properly fill out documents -- the source of television ratings in more than 150 markets nationwide including Toledo.
Media Daily News also reported that the data collection for the May sweeps was affected by troubles with Nielsen's call center for diary users to ensure that they fill out the material properly.
In an email statement to The Blade, Nielsen maintains the veracity of May's data and gathering method.
"Nielsen ensures that any data provided to clients meet or exceed the requirements set by the industry for representative results," the statement said. "May 2012 local TV ratings reflect marked improvement as a result of a program to deliver numerous process and product enhancements such as rolling out new written and scripted communications with households and upgrading the recruitment calling platform."
WTOL news director C.J. Hoyt supported the local ratings results as well.
"Nielsen has certified its results for the Toledo market as being accurate. If any claims are being made about the validity of the data, it's just spin," he said. "We're proud of the significant growth we've shown for the second ratings period in a row and we're confident this is an accurate representation of what our viewers are watching."
What the numbers -- accurate or not -- did not change were market trends from February, which continue to favor Channel 11.
The CBS affiliate won all of the p.m. newscasts in total viewership, and three of four in the advertiser-coveted demographic, ages 25 to 54. An average of 10,000 viewers ages 25 to 54 watched WTOL at noon, 9,000 from 5 to 6 p.m., 17,000 from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and 21,000 from 11 to 11:30 p.m. The noon news was watched by a total audience of 45,000. And WTOL's 9 to 10 a.m. newscast, the area's only mid-morning news, was watched by a total audience of 18,000, up from 16,000 in February.
WTVG remained competitive in the 25 to 54 demographic, and was watched by 8,000 viewers at noon, 8,500 from 5 to 6 p.m., 22,000 from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and 16,000 from 11 to 11:30 p.m. The noon newscast was watched by an average total audience of 30,000.
The silver lining in the May sweeps for WTVG was its continuing viewership domination of the morning newscasts. From 5 to 6 a.m. Channel 13 was watched by a total audience of 17,000, exactly half of whom, 8,500, were ages 25 to 54. The station's numbers were even better for the 6 to 7 a.m. block, with a total audience of 40,000 and 22,000 in the same demographic. Channel 11 was watched by a total audience of 13,500 between 5 to 6 a.m., with 6,000 of those viewers aged 25 to 54, and 31,000 total and 15,000 in the key demographic between 6 to 7 a.m.
"We appreciate that viewers have made us No. 1 again in the mornings and weekends and winning all the key demographic categories at 6 p.m.," said Brian Trauring, WTVG executive news director.
With the newsroom merger of WTOL and WUPW-TV, Channel 36, in late April, as part of the station's sale to American Spirit Media, the Fox affiliate showed improvement to its earliest newscast. WUPW, which does not compete head-to-head with any local newscast, was watched by a total audience of 6,000 for its 6:30 to 7 p.m. newscast, which features longtime Toledo anchor Jerry Anderson paired with area newcomer Emilie Voss, that compares favorably to an average of 3,000 total viewers during February sweeps. Channel 36's hour long 10 p.m. newscast, however, posted the same number of total viewers -- 20,000 -- for February and May.
"We believe we're definitely delivering a stronger news product at 6:30 and 10 than viewers were getting in the past," Hoyt said. "There's always concern that [the newsroom merger] confusion could have hurt the total audience, but we didn't see that at all.
While WUPW's ratings prospects appear brighter, beleaguered WNWO-TV, Channel 24, continues as the also-ran of the local ratings.
The NBC affiliate was watched by an average total of 2,000 viewers for its 5 to 6 a.m. and 6 to 7 a.m. newscasts, but didn't attract enough measurable viewers ages 25 to 54 for Nielsen to count. At 6 to 6:30 p.m., Channel 24's newscast was watched by 6,000 total viewers, half of whom were aged 25 to 54, and at the 11 to 11:30 p.m. newscast, 6,000 total viewers tuned in, a thousand of whom were 25 to 54. That represents a decrease of 4,000 total viewers at 6 p.m. and an increase of 2,000 at 11 p.m. from February.
Contact Kirk Baird firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6734.