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Local and network news ratings surge. Prime-time network viewing here? Not so much

Alan Pergament

This is what I’m thinking:

While prime-time broadcast network viewing is up with Western New Yorkers staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, I’m still a little surprised the local ratings weren’t higher than they were last week for many programs.

No prime-time show received a live double-digit rating here.

The highest-rated network entertainment program last week locally was the Wednesday, March 18 episode of NBC’s “Chicago Med” with an 8.8 rating on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2). That was slightly ahead of Monday’s edition of NBC’s “The Voice,” with an 8.7 rating on Channel 2.

“This Is Us,” one of NBC’s highest-rated shows, had a 7.5 rating for the March 17 episode and that tied for the highest-rated broadcast show of the night with a “NCIS” repeat on CBS affiliate WIVB-TV (Channel 4).

The inability to hit double-digit ratings during what would likely be the time ratings are maximized suggests viewers are heading in large numbers to cable, pay-cable streaming sites or watching On Demand or on DVRs.

Many network programs get big boosts in viewers three to seven days after they air.

A number of network series struggled to get live ratings as high as 3, with ABC’s “Stumptown” getting a 1.0 rating on WKBW-TV (Channel 7) on March 18.

On the same night, ABC’s popular “Modern Family,” which is ending its run in a few weeks, had a 3.5 live rating.

Of course, it could be that viewers are reluctant to join series they haven’t watched because they don’t know the characters or recurring plot lines and they can understand things better by viewing earlier episodes via On Demand or streaming sites.

Ratings are surging for the 6 p.m. local news hour and the 6:30 p.m. national news hour.

WGRZ had a 13.8 rating Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m., with WIVB-TV (Channel 4) getting a strong 12.6 rating at that hour. Third-place WKBW-TV (Channel 7) had a 5.0 rating, which is a high rating for Eyewitness News.

The news ratings on Channel 2 and Channel 4 on March 19 and 20 also hit double-digits.

During the February sweeps, Channel 4 averaged a 9.7 rating at 6 p.m., Channel 2 averaged a 9.2 rating and Channel 7 a 3.6 rating.

In other words, the combined rating on March 17 was about 40% higher than the average during the February sweeps.

The national newscasts are getting a local and national ratings surge.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday March 17, “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” had a 14.2 rating on Channel 2, with “The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” hitting a 9.7 rating on Channel 4. ABC’s “World New Tonight With David Muir” had a 5.8 rating on Channel 7.

During the February sweeps, Holt’s newscast averaged an 8.7 rating on Channel 2, O’Donnell’s a 7.1 on Channel 4 and Muir’s a 4.5 on Channel 7.

The combined rating on March 17 for the national newscasts was about 45% higher than the February sweeps average in Western New York.

Other areas of increased local viewership include the 4 p.m. news programs on Channel 2 and Channel 4, “Jeopardy” at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 4 and the network late-night shows on both stations, which suggest more people are staying up late.


It appears that WBFO-TV viewers are going to have to wait, wait to see “Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me” for several months.

The April 30 performance at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre has been postponed by NPR, which has also postponed all live events for the next eight weeks because of the pandemic.

According to Sylvia Bennett, senior vice president and chief development officer at WNED and WBFO-FM, the earliest it can come here because of NPR’s and Shea’s availability is August.

All tickets will be honored once the show goes on.

Ticket-holders will be notified of the new date as soon as it is scheduled.


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