Share this article

print logo

Letterman goes out on top in WNY and other May sweeps news

David Letterman went out a late-night winner in Western New York.

Lester Holt is holding his own here as the anchor of “The NBC Nightly News.”

And NBC’s “Today” show is a much bigger hit here than it is nationally.

Those are the big local takeaways in household ratings in the just-concluded May sweeps period.

As usual, Western New York doesn’t follow the national script.

That’s largely because Channel 2 is one of the strongest NBC affiliates in the country and its news lead-ins benefit the national morning and evening programs.

But let’s start with Letterman’s final sweeps period results here.

His late-night program averaged a 4.0 household rating in his farewell month full of big-name guests who adored him. That’s the same rating he had for the May 2014 sweeps.

NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” was second with a 3.4 rating on Channel 2. That is down significantly from the 4.4 rating he averaged a year ago when he was No.1 here.

The Jimmy Kimmel show on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, averaged a 1.5 rating after Channel 7’s weak 11 p.m. news lead-in. That was down from a 1.7 in May of 2014.

Of course, Letterman has always done well here, even when Jay Leno was winning nationally as host of “The Tonight Show.” Channel 4’s No. 1 news lead-in certainly helped.

“The Late Show with David Letterman” beat Leno in households and demographics for five years locally until November of 2008. The continued closeness of the late-night race locally was evident by the four-rating book average in 2013. Letterman won by a tenth of a point in households, and Leno won by two-tenths in the age 18-to-49 demographic.

However, Fallon is expected to still win the demographic race this May, which is the primary reason Letterman retired.

Interestingly, new host James Corden of CBS’ “Late, Late Show” did quite well here in households. He beat NBC’s Seth Meyers by a narrow margin, though the demos could tell a different story. A year ago, Meyers’ show defeated the CBS show with Craig Ferguson by a narrow margin here.

The nightly news race may be shifting nationally, but NBC really hasn’t missed a beat here since Holt took over for the disgraced Brian Williams.

In May, NBC won with an 8.6 rating on Channel 2, down only 4 percent from a year ago when Williams anchored. The “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” had a 15 percent drop to a 6.7 rating and ABC’s “World News with David Muir” slipped 4 percent on Channel 7 to a 4.6. Muir’s rating here is in sharp contrast to how well he is doing nationally. ABC won the 18-49 and 25-54 demos over NBC by small margins and lost in overall viewership by a small margin.

In the morning “Today” had a bigger rating than the combined ratings for the morning programs on CBS and ABC.

“Today,” which benefits from the Channel 2 lead-in from “Daybreak,” had a 7.7 rating, up about 20 percent from a year ago. CBS and ABC each averaged a 3.3 rating and both experienced declines from a year ago. ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which is first nationally, slipped about 20 percent here and fell into third place.

Of course, the demos could change some things.

And how they are measured will be changing shortly. Nielsen no longer is going to rely on diaries in this market to provide demographics after the July sweeps and plans a new mathematical way of providing them monthly starting in October.

It will save Nielsen some money and perhaps even save local viewers in metered markets from seeing sweeps series in the months of November, February and May since sweeps presumably no longer will be as important.