Channel 7 would be wise to follow a new path as it looks to escape the ratings basement - The Buffalo News

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Channel 7 would be wise to follow a new path as it looks to escape the ratings basement

Some tasty leftovers for the July Fourth weekend:

Breaking news! Breaking news! I pretty much know what is in the online research survey that Channel 7’s new owner, E.W. Scripps, is taking.

OK, I’m not about to print all the details. That would be bad manners. But I can report that it is asking about all the TV anchors in the market and not just its own station.

It also is asking what people think about the importance of being first on the scene of breaking news.

I wish I could see the results of that question because the term “breaking news” has become a bit of an industry joke, a “Saturday Night Live” skit waiting to happen. That is especially true when it pertains to minor car accidents or fires.

I hear there also is a question about the importance of money-saving tips, a category that Matt Granite has owned on Channel 2 even though he works at another Gannett station in a money-saving move.

The most attention-getting research question concerned where people would see former Channel 2 morning anchor Jodi Johnston working if she returned to TV.

That would seem to indicate that Channel 7 is interested in Johnston. However, she told me she’s happy in her job at First Niagara and isn’t interested in returning to TV. I believe her.

The question indicates that Scripps might consider bringing back former popular anchors in the market in the hope of getting Western New Yorkers to give its low-rated newscasts another look. It wouldn’t be the first time that stations looked to former Wester New York favorites to bring in viewers. Susan Banks, Don Postles, Kevin O’Connell and John Beard are among the anchors who left town for awhile, only to return at different stations.

However, I wouldn’t go back to the future if I were Scripps; I’d go the route of Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray and look for new, younger skilled people balanced with veterans and avoid the past.

Channel 2’s resurgence came with anchor Scott Levin, who was unknown in this market when he arrived from Richmond. Channel 4’s impressive new meteorologist Todd Santos never worked here before, and anchor Diana Fairbanks was getting a lot of positive attention before she left last week to go back to Michigan.

Stations are just as likely to make new fresh anchors popular with time as former Western New York anchors are likely to make stations popular.

Besides, Channel 7’s biggest need is a veteran male anchor – maybe in his late 30s or early 40s – to become Keith Radford’s eventual replacement. It needs to hire one, since there is no one on its staff that could fill that role.

• You may recall that the initial reports had Channel 4 doing very well in household ratings for the May sweeps and Channel 2 not so well.

Then the demographics arrived and reversed that idea.

While Channel 4 had much stronger household ratings than it had a year ago in May and won the 6 p.m. newscast in that category for the first time in six sweeps, Channel 2 won big in the age 18-49 and age 25-54 in all time periods that the stations competed on their own stations. It was a big demographic winner at 6 p.m.

And advertisers care about the demographics only. They don’t buy households ratings.

The figures seem to reinforce the idea that Channel 4’s news presentation is too dull to attract younger viewers. It might start by changing the opening and hiring a new unseen voice announcer with a little more life.

• Speaking of Channel 4, it sure has been slow to fill sports and weather openings. The old reliable weather fill-in, Keith Eichner, found his way back on weekends after Bryan Shaw was let go. You would think Channel 4 would hurry and hire a third sports reporter before the Bills training camp starts.

You could start a pool on how long it will take to replace Fairbanks on the 5:30 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Channel 4 usually seems perfectly willing to tire out Postles and Jacquie Walker until it finds a 10 p.m. replacement.

• I’ve never seen as much Twitter and Facebook love as I read when Buffalo News reporter and former WBEN reporter Brian Meyer was named to replace Jim Ranney as news director at WBFO. People on Twitter aren’t known for their kindness, so all the props to Meyer say something about his work ethic and skills.

• It is hard to understand why ESPN insisted on counting a 30-minute pregame show in its Nielsen national ratings for United States games in the World Cup since it lowered their average. However, one TV expert told me that the pregame is the only time besides halftime when ESPN sells advertisements because game action never stops. And the sole reason for ratings is to sell ads. Sports Illustrated reported that the reason that crowds at bars and other public venues aren’t counted by Nielsen is because advertisers won’t pay for that data. I understand why: People in bars and at venues like Canalside can’t really hear the advertisements and don’t care about them.

• I can’t wait until one of WNYO’s digital channels begins carrying a new movie channel, getTV, that shows classic films. The only time I watch WNYO now is when it carries “Modern Family” reruns.

• The introduction of Vidbolt – the locally invented social media site that allows viewers to post their thoughts next to live video feeds – on WNED’s Frederick Law Olmsted documentary sure seemed to be a strange marriage. You would think that having your attention divided might contradict the show’s message about the joy of stopping at the parks to enjoy the roses. Besides, WNED typically attracts older viewers who don’t want to multitask. I hope Vidbolt gets another shot on a more suitable program .

• I make mistakes sometimes when I blog. Usually, I catch them quickly. In a blog last week about the popularity of soccer, I briefly noted that I had heard the revolutionary soccer song before and mentioned the time that Brandi Chastain took off her sports bra. I quickly corrected it to the time that she took off her shirt to reveal her sports bra. But I wasn’t quick enough to prevent at least one reader from seeing the error. Former Channel 4 anchor Mylous Hairston sent me a gentle, funny message on Facebook: “I can only imagine the popularity of the game in the country if she had taken off her sports bra!”


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