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Something for everyone in local TV news ratings during February sweeps


In my Sunday column, Channel 4 News Director Scott Levy said the Buffalo TV market is “one of the best news markets in the country.”

The recently arrived February sweeps numbers validate that point as Western New York continues to get news viewership higher than most markets in the country.

Not much has changed from year to year.

There is something for everyone.

  • Channel 2 News is still No. 1 at 6 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Channel 4 remains No. 1 at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. and has taken 5 a.m. from Channel 2 by the slimmest of margins.
  • Channel 7 still is deep in third place everywhere it competes, but is the only station that saw an increase from a year ago at 5 p.m. and it saw the lowest decline at 6 a.m.

Those are the most noticeable and newsworthy results when you compare the February sweeps that concluded last week to the results in February of 2015.

However, there is a new wrinkle this year.

Nielsen now summarizes ratings and demographics in Western New York monthly, which enable the local stations and advertisers to see viewing trends in another way. It no longer uses diaries.

While very little has changed from a year ago when viewing levels were lower -- primarily because the weather was more severe – there have been some newsworthy trends month to month.

The most newsworthy trend occurred at 11 p.m. as Channel 4 restored its supremacy of a year ago after Channel 2 cut Channel 4’s margin of victory to 0.1 in January, 7.3-7.2. Channel 4 won, 7.8-6.4, in February. However, it won by a slightly bigger margin, 9.1-7.4, a year ago. News viewership at 11 p.m. is down about 15 percent from a year ago when the weather was a bigger issue.

Channel 4 also has to be happy with the month-to-month results at 5 a.m. Channel 2 won in January at 5 a.m. by a slim margin, 3.9-3.6. In February, Channel 4 won by an even slimmer margin, 3.3-3.2

The ratings bump that Channel 7 experienced at 5 p.m. in January when it introduced Ashley Rowe as its new co-anchor was significantly lowered in February but WKBW-TV still was the only station that did better in that time slot this February that it did a year ago. It averaged a 4.2 rating in the time slot this February compared to a 3.8 a year ago.

Channel 2’s two-point lead at 6 p.m. over Channel 4 in January was cut by more than a point in February. However, Channel 2’s lead is in the same range as it was a year ago when all three stations had higher ratings.

In other local ratings news, the “Dateline” special on the O.J. Simpson murder trial had a 6.6 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. It had a higher viewership than the series finale of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” that was loaded with happy endings, and CBS’ “The Good Wife,” which is getting sillier and sillier as it nears the end of its run. “Downton” had a 5.1 rating on WNED-TV, the local PBS affiliate. “The Good Wife” had a 5.2 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

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