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Commentary

Two local TV stations have different reasons to declare victory in February sweeps

Alan Pergament

If you have watched WIVB-TV (Channel 4) in the last few days, you likely would have seen a news promo that makes the claim that its local newscasts are the “most-watched” in Western New York.

That essentially means it had the highest collective ratings in households in the recently completed February sweeps period judged by Nielsen.

However, advertisers generally buy demographics, not households. And the clear winner in the key 25-54 demographic for local news is WGRZ-TV (Channel 2).

That means each station has a different reason to declare victory in February, though Channel 2's demographic victory is more important to advertisers.

WKBW-TV (Channel 7) remains deep in third place in all time periods.

The results from another ratings service, Comscore, arrive in a few weeks.

Perhaps one of the biggest overall takes in Nielsen from the February sweeps is the double-digit percentage decline in news ratings in just about all time periods compared to a year ago.

It is hard to know what to make of that decline. Nielsen has changed its methodology within the last year, which could be one factor. One also wonders if the lack of weather issues for most of the sweeps period had something to do with the decline. Notably, last week’s cold and windy weather that included heavy snowfalls in certain areas of Western New York started on Thursday, the day after the sweeps ended.

Weather issues often drive local viewership in the winter and the relative absence of them during the February sweeps could have led to a rating drop this year.

Channel 4 was the winner in households from 5 through 6:30 p.m. and at 10 p.m. when its newscast is on sister station WNLO-TV and Channel 2’s newscast is on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate.

The 11 p.m. newscasts anchored by Channel 4’s Jacquie Walker and Don Postles, and by Channel 2’s Maryalice Demler and Scott Levin tied in household rating.

Channel 2’s “Daybreak” co-anchored by Melissa Holmes and Pete Gallivan won in households from 4:30 through 7 a.m. and its light news program “Most Buffalo” anchored by Kate Welshofer won over Channel 4’s more traditional newscast at 4 p.m. anchored by Christy Kern.

The competition is very close between Channel 4 and Channel 2. In the time periods that Channel 4 and Channel 2 competed directly, Channel 2 had a total of 46.6 household points and the combination of Channel 4 and WNLO had 45.5 points.

However, Channel 4 gets to claim it is the “most-watched” by virtue of its strong noon newscast (8.3 rating) and the little-watched 6:30 p.m. newscast (0.7 rating) carried on WNLO.  Those additional newscasts give Channel 4 a total of 54.5 households points.

Channel 2’s 11 a.m. newscast, which doesn’t compete with any other local news program, averages a 3.3 rating so its household total increases to 49.9 points.

Channel 7’s highest-rated news program was a 3.6 rating at 6 p.m.

Household ratings were down from a year ago collectively by 11% at 5 a.m., 12% at 6 a.m., 20% at 5 p.m., 14% at 5:30 p.m. and 17% at 6 p.m.

Interestingly, ratings increased at 11 p.m., when the average was up about 6%.

In the 25-54 demo, Channel 2 was the clear winner in all time periods, often by significant margins.

Channel 2 was especially dominant in the 25-54 male demographic in several time periods, especially in the morning.

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