By Alan Pergament
Forgive me, it is that time of year when I spend more time with numbers than NFL executives at the NFL Combine. Here are some of the big stories of the just-concluded February sweeps:
*Channel 2 News is back on top in the morning and gaining ground at 10 p.m.
* Its 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. newscasts have experienced about 15 percent drops from a year ago but it still remains well ahead of second place Channel 4.
* Channel 4 is within shouting distance of Channel 2 at 6 p.m. but the first sweeps results for its hour-long news are nothing to shout about.
* Channel 7 is buried in third place in all time periods that the three stations compete and lost about 20 percent of its meager 5 p.m. audience from a year ago. That certainly gives its next owner, E.W. Scripps Company, a good look at what is facing once it takes over.
The results come with an asterisk. NBC’s highly-rated prime time, morning and afternoon coverage of the Sochi Olympics probably had an impact on some of the news races.
If you add all the time periods in which Channel 2 and Channel 4 compete in news, Channel 2 is ahead by one or two ratings points out of 100 between them.
Here are the results for some of the more important time periods:
6 a.m.: Channel 2's team of John Beard, Melissa Holmes and Andy Parker wins, 6.2,-4.7, a big turnaround from the November sweeps when Channel 4's new team of Teresa Weakley, Todd Santos and Jordan Williams helped the station gain a statistical tie. Interestingly, both stations lost about 15 percent of their audience from a year ago in the time period. The two stations are in a statistical tie at 5 a.m.
5 p.m., 5:30 p.m.: Channel 2's margin of victory was almost cut in half with both newscasts, but it still has a comfortable lead over Channel 4 for the hour.
6 p.m.: Channel 2 wins over Channel 4, 11.1-10.9, which is pretty much a statistical tie.
10 p.m.: A year ago, Channel 4's 10 p.m. news on sister station WNLO-TV tripled the rating of Channel 2's news on WNYO-TV. Now that Channel 2’s newscast has moved to more powerful WUTV, Channel 4's victory margin was cut to 4.6-3.2.
10:30 p.m.: Channel 4's second half-hour of news averaged a 2.6 rating, which means it lost about half of its 10 p.m. audience. The rating was only slightly higher than Channel 2's 4:30 a.m. newscast, which averaged a 2.4 rating.
11 pm.: These numbers really deserve an asterisk because during the Olympics most of Channel 2’s newscasts aired at 11:30 p.m. First-place Channel 4 almost gained a point to 9.8 at 11 p.m. Channel 2’s average ratings for its 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. was an 8.0, which was 30 percent higher than it had a year ago when all newscasts were at 11 p.m. However, Channel 2's gain was expected because it received a strong lead-in from NBC’s Olympic coverage. Channel 2 was one of the top-rated NBC affiliates in the country during the Olympics in prime time and that had to attract viewers to its late newscasts.
Of course, the full picture for the February sweeps doesn't arrive for a few weeks when the demographics that are so important to advertisers arrive.