Where did all the viewers go in July?
That's what the local network affiliates have to be wondering after receiving the July ratings book from Nielsen.
Of course, the answer is simple. They went to cable.
But even though the summer ratings are considered the least important, the decline in local network affiliate viewing this warm summer still has to alarm local television executives.
According to Nielsen, Channel 2, Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 29 and Channel 49 had a combined rating of 13 from sign-on to sign-off this July, down from a 15 in July 1998.
The five stations had a combined share of 53, down from a 58 last year.
One area showing a slight increase is the 7 to 9 a.m. hours, where NBC's and Channel 2's "Today," Channel 4's "Wake Up" and "CBS This Morning" and ABC's "Good Morning America" had a combined 14 rating and 64 share, up from a 13 last July.
The success of the morning shows reflects a national trend of the nation going to bed earlier and getting up earlier.
In the afternoons from noon until 4 p.m., the five stations had a combined 10 rating, a 38 percent loss from the 16 rating they received a year ago.
In prime time, the five stations had a combined 20 rating, a 16 percent drop from the 24 they received a year ago.
Not much changed on the local news front, with Channel 7 winning at 5 p.m. by the same 2-point margin it had over Channel 4 in July of 1998. It won by three points at 6 p.m. (one more than in 1998) and by three points at 11 p.m. (one less than in 1998).
And Channel 2?
It still is deep in third place and is losing to "Judge Judy" on Channel 29 at 6 p.m.
But at least it gets better ratings than "Jerry Springer" these days. Of course, it isn't a head-to-head competition. Springer's ratings at 11 a.m. on Channel 49 slipped from a 5 to a 2 and at 10 p.m. the news was even worse. Springer now gets a 1 rating, down from a 4 rating a year ago.
Two local products have already won Emmy Awards, a week before the prime-time shindig airs on Fox.
Marguerite Dericks won in the Outstanding Choreography department for the opening celebration of the Goodwill Games.
And Austin Hoyt, the uncle of local politico Sam Hoyt, won as a producer for PBS' "The American Experience." It was given an award for Outstanding Non-fiction Series.