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Cold weather equals better ratings for local news stations

What appears to be the coldest month in Buffalo weather history delivered some hot local news ratings during the February sweeps completed Wednesday night.

That makes perfect sense since viewers were pretty much a captive audience during the record cold.

Here are the top six takeaways of the February sweeps:

Channel 2 is No. 1 with an asterisk: In the seven time periods that Channel 2 and Channel 4 compete directly, Channel 2 has a total of 55.1 rating points to Channel 4’s 48.9 points.

Here’s the reason for the asterisk. Both stations have 59.4 rating points if you add the midday numbers when Channel 2 has an 11 a.m. newscast and Channel 4 has a noon newscast. Channel 7, which doesn’t have a 10 p.m. newscast, has a total of 25 rating points for its other six newscasts.

Everyone has a reason to smile: The collective news ratings of the three local news stations were up from a year ago, with first place Channel 2 gaining the most, Channel 4 doing second best and third place Channel 7 gaining the least despite its noticeably improved product.

Channel 2 tightens race at 10 p.m.: Channel 2 finally seems poised to tie or surpass Channel 4 on the 10 p.m. newscasts that each air on a different channel.

Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast on Fox affiliate WUTV is within two-tenths of a percentage point of Channel 4’s 10 p.m. news on sister station WNLO. A year ago, Channel 4 dominated the time period.

For those interested in numbers, the score was 4.3-4.1 this February.

While Nalina Shapiro now anchors Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscast, she shouldn’t be blamed for the decline. It is more of a case of Channel 2’s newscast gaining viewers at 10, than Channel 4 losing them, and one of the biggest reasons for the gain appears to be the lead-in Channel 2 gets on Wednesdays from the new Fox hit “Empire.”

The other newscast that Shapiro now anchors – the 5:30 p.m. – saw a double-digit percentage gain for Channel 4 from a year ago. However, Channel 2 gained an even higher percentage in the time period and expanded its lead by 0.7 of a point from a year ago. Channel 7, which moved Jeff Russo into the 5:30 p.m. anchor slot, saw a 2 percent decline and still is deep in third place in the time period.

The score at 5:30 p.m. is 10.5 for Channel 2, 8.7 for Channel 4 and a 4.0 for Channel 7.

Channel 7 still out in the cold in the morning: Channel 7’s weathercentric 6 a.m. newscast with a new cast that includes former Channel 2 meteorologist Andy Parker had the same rating as the station had a year ago and gets less than a third of the rating of first place Channel 2 and less than half of the audience of second place Channel 4.

The 6 a.m. score is 7.4 for Channel 2; 5 for Channel 4; and 2 for Channel 7.

The best news for Channel 7 came at 5 p.m., where it gained 23 percent from a year ago. However, it is easier to gain a high percentage when your ratings are low. Channel 7 gets about a third of the audience of first place Channel 2 at 5 p.m. and about half the audience of Channel 4 in the time period.

The score at 5 p.m. is 10.7 for Channel 2; 8.1 for Channel 4; and 3.8 for Channel 7.

The news audience grew the most from 5 to 6 p.m., but Channel 2 was the only station with an increase at 6 p.m. and it was only 2 percent.

The score at 6 p.m. was 11.2 for Channel 2, 10.4 for Channel 4 and 5.3 for Channel 7.

Channel 4 soars at noon: Channel 4’s highest rating of the day came at noon, where its audience hit double figures and gained about 17 percent from a year ago. Of course, it helps that Channel 2 doesn’t compete at that time. Channel 7 also saw a slight noon gain and gets about half the rating of Channel 4 in the time period. Channel 2’s 11 a.m. newscast still gets only slightly more than a third of the audience of Channel 4 at noon.

The score is 10.5 for Channel 4 and 5.4 for Channel 7 at noon and 4.3 for Channel 2 at 11 a.m.

It is 11 o’clock – do you know where the viewers are?: Most likely in bed. All three stations saw a decline from a year ago as more viewers chose to go to bed, undoubtedly after shoveling or snowblowing.

The score at 11 p.m. is 9.1 for Channel 4; 7.4 for Channel 2; and 4.5 for Channel 7.

I suppose this is the time to remind readers that the full story arrives in mid-March when the demographics that are so important to advertisers arrive.


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