If you are to believe a half-page advertisement in last Friday’s Buffalo News, everything is wonderful over at WGRZ-TV (Channel 2), the local NBC affiliate.
The headline shouts “Thank You!”
Beneath it, the ad continues “For Making Us Your #1 Choice For News and Weather Throughout All of 2016!”
In the fine print down below, it says it is No. 1 since January in head-to-head newscasts at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and in total household ratings and several key demographics that advertisers covet.
The advertisement arrived two days after the November sweeps painted a different household story that showed some reasons for concern at Channel 2.
WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate that has had an extreme makeover in the last few years with the departures of veterans Rich Newberg and Don Paul and an influx of new reporters, was the winner in November in households at 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. It also was the closest it has been at 5:30 p.m. in five years, losing by a tenth of a point. And it contends that it is No. 1 at 11 p.m. in households year to date despite what Channel 2’s ad suggests.
The positive results for 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. co-anchors Jacquie Walker and Don Postles come at a time that Channel 4 awaits a change in ownership to Nexstar.
Channel 2 remains a solid No. 1 in households at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., but its margin of victory at 5 p.m. has been cut by almost two-thirds from a year ago. Its household ratings are down 12 percent at 5 p.m., 13 percent at 5:30 p.m. and 9 percent at 6 p.m., all time periods where Channel 4 has experienced growth ranging from 8 percent to 11 percent.
WKBW-TV, the local ABC affiliate, remains deep in third in the local news competition. It has made decent household percentage gains at noon with Keith Radford as anchor and at 6 p.m., with Radford and Ashley Rowe co-anchoring, from its low numbers. It also is up 3 percent at 5:30 p.m., which means Channel 2 is the only station losing viewers in that time slot.
Channel 2’s decline at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. could be behind the recent decisions to have anchor Maryalice Demler replace Kelly Dudzik at 5 p.m. alongside Scott Levin and have Levin replace Michael Wooten as the anchor alongside Demler on the 5:30 p.m. newscast.
To counter the perception that things at Channel 2 aren’t going as swimmingly as Friday’s ad suggests, the station is extolling the demographic results for the November sweeps that paint a more positive story.
According to Channel 2, it beat or tied the combined ratings of its two rival stations in five key demographic categories at 6 a.m., and three key categories at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and is No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in 21 of 30 times over six newscasts where the three stations compete directly.
No mention was made of 6 p.m. or 11 p.m., where the demographic battle in the key 25-54 demographic is very close.
Channel 2’s demographic margins of victories seem to have suffered because of the new way Nielsen began measuring them in January.
While there have been no changes in how household ratings are measured, demographics are now measured very differently.
In the past, stations would have to wait weeks to get demographic figures via diaries. Now demographics are calculated by comparing the Buffalo market to the Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City, Baltimore and Washington markets even if those stations are carrying different programs.
It is a bizarre way of doing things, since the Buffalo market is considered a pretty unique one that gets a higher percentage of news viewers than most large cities.
The change in the way demographics are handled generally hurts leading stations in markets, which is likely why Channel 2 has seen its demographic superiority over Channel 4 decline significantly in some newscasts.