We Have a Local Ratings Winner, and Losers

No one (except LouisvilleKY.com) reports them any more, and technology has created a world in which these four times a year sweeps periods aren’t the only times you can find out who’s winning in local ratings wars.  TV ratings are still important to local stations, though, even if it’s only for bragging rights.

And there won’t be much bragging going on in local newsrooms as a result of February’s numbers, except at WLKY-TV. Let’s look at some dayparts and results for local news programs.

EARLY MORNING: I still don’t see the value in coming on the air at 4:30, but among viewers who do, WHAS and WLKY are in a virtual dead heat, with WAVE picking up about half the audience of those two. The same holds true during the 5 a.m. hour, when Fox41 joins in, finishing well behind WAVE.  From 6-7 WHAS asserts its leadership, but by a smaller margin over WLKY than in recent books.

At 10, WAVE’s local program, WAVE 3 Listens, can’t beat Maury Povich on Fox41 or Millionaire on WHAS. It is doing far better, though, than the CW’s Louisville Live This Morning, which barely moves the needle on the ratings meter.

NOON: The battle for the top spot among WHAS and WLKY continues, with WLKY winning a close race. WAVE’s experiment with its Live at 725 show at 12:30 is driving away viewers, as it is losing a full ratings point from its third-place Noon news finish. Fox41’s 11:30 newscast has caught up with WAVE’s Noon show.

EVENING NEWS:  The competition is fiercest here, because this is when there are more viewers at stake. WLKY wins the war at 5 and 5:30, and WHAS pulls ahead at 6. But it’s really close. This could be a credit to the soap opera The Young and Restless, which surprisingly pulls bigger numbers than Oprah, Ellen or Fox41’s local newscasts at 4. Again, the competition in the top spot is fierce, with WAVE languishing a bit off the pace in each time period.

I’d call the new 6:30 newscast on Fox41 a success, based on its initial 3.8 rating. It hasn’t overtaken any network newscasts, but GM Bill Lamb told me he’d be happy with anything above a 3.

LATE NEWS:  The rout is on in late night, with WLKY (9.5) killing the competition (WHAS 6.4, WAVE 4.4) at 11. Credit a strong lead-in from CBS programming, but the news here is the margin of victory. CBS’ prime time lineup averaged a 12.3 rating in February locally, more than double its nearest competitor. Fox’s News at 10 finished with a 5.1, besting WAVE’s 11 p.m. newscast, and trouncing its news competition at 10 on the CW. The WHAS newscast there did just 1.5.

Others:  In head-to-head competition on Saturday and Sunday mornings, WLKY’s 6-8 a.m. news decisively beat WHAS.

So what’s it all mean? Do all the special reports and investigative series translate into ratings points? Are personnel changes affecting what people watch on local TV?

Bragging rights certainly go to WLKY this month.  Some may give all the credit for that to CBS programming, but the station is doing something right. That its morning programming is doing so well against the traditionally powerful Good Morning Kentuckiana tells me that viewers are buying into the local product.

At WHAS, it wasn’t a good book in that the station lost ground in time periods is has dominated in the past. And WAVE has to be considering factors other than ratings in keeping its Live at 725 show going.  WAVE had the worst book in memory, as it usually finishes second in at least a few time periods for local news.  For Fox41, the strategy of bringing on more news hours is working, if the numbers for its 6:30 newscast are any indication. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox41 starts a weekend morning program to complement its strong Fox in the Morning show.

There are more changes ahead, especially as stations gear up for moving shows in syndicated programming, with Fox41 beefing up with new shows and Oprah disappearing from the WHAS lineup. Rumor is that WHAS is already selling spots for a 4 p.m. newscast. But that’s for future books.

New WLKY reporter Marissa Alter

More TV News: WHAS is holding a telethon today to raise money for the Chuck Olmstead Memorial Fund.  WLKY has won a national award for its political reporting from USC’s Journalism School. The Walter Cronkite award recognized the station for its coverage of the 2010 election season, including the televising of local debates and special political programming.

A New Face: And the new reporter at WLKY, Marissa Alter, is well-educated. She went to Cornell and has a Masters from Boston University. Which makes you wonder why she’d want to come here and stand under an umbrella to report on a fatal crash on Bardstown Road. She was most recently a reporter at WREX in Rockford, Ill.

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