When it comes to local television ratings, WIVB-TV (Channel 4) is as hot as the Buffalo Sabres.
The CBS affiliate was the winner in household ratings and the key age 25-54 demographic in almost all-time periods during the November sweeps, which ended on Thanksgiving eve.
The one notable exception is 5 a.m., when the WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) morning program “Daybreak” won over Channel ‘s “Wake Up!” in households while “Wake Up!” won in the 25-54 demographic.
However, at 6 a.m., Channel 4 tied Channel 2 in households and was the winner in the key demographic.
Channel 2 has long dominated in the morning, but there was a change in personnel at both stations this November. It was the first November sweeps in several years without John Beard as co-anchor of “Daybreak.” And it was the first November sweeps since Dave Greber replaced Jordan Williams as co-anchor of “Wake Up!”
The November results are consistent with the dramatic shift in demographics that occurred during the last significant sweeps period in May. Until May, Channel 4 had in recent years lagged behind WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) in the age 25-54 demographic important to local advertisers.
However, in May, Channel 4 won at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. in that key demographic. In May of 2017, Channel 2 won in that demographic in every one of those time periods.
The viewership change comes more than two years after Nielsen started measuring demographics differently, partly by measuring the Buffalo market by matching similar homes in other bigger markets.
Or it could be because viewers have just changed their viewing habits as much as Nielsen claims.
In any event, the November results are even better for Channel 4 than they were in May.
Channel 4 saw its household ratings rise by 34 percent at noon to an 8.9 rating when Melanie Orlins anchors and by 25 percent to a 4.9 at 4 p.m. when Christy Kern anchors. Channel 2 doesn’t compete in those time periods.
Channel 4 also won the entire 5 p.m. through 6:30 p.m. time period and at 11 p.m. in households and the key demographic when Jacquie Walker and Don Postles are the co-anchors.
The results were close in the 5 p.m. through 6:30 p.m. newscasts. In households, Channel 4 won at 5 p.m. 7.7-7.4, at 5:30 p.m. by 8.1-7.6 and at 6 p.m. by 10.2 -9.8.
Channel 4 also was the winner by almost a 2-1 margin in households at 10 p.m. – when it carries its newscast on sister station WNLO-TV – and Channel 2 carries its newscast on Fox affiliate WUTV.
Despite the departure of weatherman Kevin O’Connell, Channel 2 did improve its household ratings from 5 p.m. through 6:30 p.m. compared to a year ago but lost viewers in the key demographic and still finished in second place there.
WKBW-TV (Channel 7) remains deep in third place in the local news market, receiving less than half its rivals’ audience despite its much-improved product and the stellar investigative reporting work by Charlie Specht on the scandal in the Buffalo Diocese.
The one area for concern for all three stations is 11 p.m., where combined news viewership declined by about 15 percent.
Channel 4 General Manager Dominic Mancuso praised his staff for the station’s November success.
“We’ve been steadily growing our demos throughout the year,” said Mancuso. “It’s quite an accomplishment to win on the demo that counts in every weekday newscast and it came from a great sustained effort by everyone on the News team.”
Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said he was surprised by the results.
“Our goal is always to serve our viewers with information through great storytelling, celebrating WNY and investigations that matter and are not seen anywhere else,” said Toellner. “I think we did that. As for the vagaries and machinations of the latest Nielsen book, I congratulate Brand X. Strong competition makes us all better. We had a very strong September and strong October so those results the last four weeks were a little surprising. We will of course listen to our viewers and users to guide our efforts going forward.”
Toellner downplayed any suggestions that the departures of Beard and O’Connell affected the November ratings.
“Our feedback socially, digitally and through letters would not indicate that as all of our digital audiences and traffic continue to grow,” said Toellner. “Their replacements get numerous accolades but of course they were very good at what they did for us.”
Channel 4’s strong lead-in was a big help to Town of Tonawanda native Jeff Glor, the anchor of “The CBS Evening News.”
Glor’s newscast is deep in third place nationally but it won in Buffalo with an 8.7 household rating on Channel 4 and it also wins here in the key 25-54 demographic. “The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” which won last November, averaged an 8.4 rating on Channel 2. ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was third with a 6.2 rating that almost doubled Channel 7’s lead-in at 6 p.m.
“The Today Show” still dominates in Buffalo in the morning with a 5.9 rating on Channel 2 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Interestingly, Channel 4’s local newscast on WNLO at that hour is ahead of the two other national morning programs in household viewership here.
In the late-night battle, CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Channel 4 continues to win over NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Channel 2 by significant margins. It wins the key 25-54 demo here by almost a 2-1 margin, 1.6-0.9. Here is another bad sign for Fallon: His show is tied with “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Channel 7 in that demo.