Three months after WIVB-TV (Channel 4) dominated the local news competition in the November sweeps, rival WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) is back on top during the just-concluded February sweeps and celebrating with frequently run promos about the triumph.
Channel 2 was No. 1 in households in all key time periods in which the stations compete in February on their own stations and was the winner in the key demographics in most newscasts as well.
Channel 4’s lone household victories came at noon when Channel 2 doesn’t have a newscast and at 10 p.m. when both stations have newscasts on different stations. Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast is carried on Fox affiliate WUTV and Channel 4’s is on sister station WNLO-TV (CW 23).
Channel 4's only victories in the key 25-54 demographic came at 5 and 6 a.m., with the help of the simulcast it carries on CW23, at 10 p.m. on CW 23 and at 11 p.m., when it wins by only one-tenth of a point. (The demos at 10 p.m. were unavailable at this writing.)
Channel 2 wins in the 25-54 demographic from 5 through 6:30 p.m. and in the age 18-49 demographic in those time slots everywhere but at 6 p.m. when Channel 4 has an edge of only two-tenths of a point.
To be clear, the battle between the two stations is very close. In every time period, Channel 2’s margin of victory is less than a point.
WKBW-TV (Channel 7) remains a deep third in all time periods.
The results are a startling change from the November sweeps when Channel 4 was the winner in household ratings and in the key age 25-54 demographic in almost all time periods. The one notable exception in November was at 5 a.m., when Channel 2’s morning program “Daybreak” won over Channel 4’s “Wake Up!” in households while “Wake Up!” won in the 25-54 demographic.
Channel 2 has long dominated in the morning, but there was a change in personnel at both stations last 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 on Channel 4’s “Wake Up!”
The November results were consistent with the dramatic shift in demographics that occurred during the May sweeps in 2018. Until then, 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 of 2018, 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 one constant in the last few sweeps periods documented by Nielsen has been change.
More than two years ago Nielsen started measuring demographics differently, partly by measuring the Buffalo market by matching similar homes in other bigger markets.
Channel 4 won’t be able to cry foul to Nielsen this time around; it dropped the ratings service at the end of the year because its owner, Nexstar, doesn’t subscribe to it.
It now uses a different measuring service, Comscore, that measures more households than Nielsen but doesn't supply demographics.
I imagine if the Comscore results were more favorable to Channel 4 than those of Nielsen, I would have gotten a telephone call from someone at the station by now. I haven't gotten one.