Writers Strike Smacks February Sweeps
Our decline in prime-time network watching during the TV writers' strike contributed to a 17 percent loss (51,545 homes) in the 11 p.m. local news viewing audience – hurting Channel 12 the most.
Although WKRC-TV won the late news ratings as usual, Channel 12 lost more than 27 percent of its late news audience from February sweeps a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research. It was the steepest decline of the three 11 p.m. newscasts.
The three major network affiliates – Channels 5, 9 and 12 – lost a combined 20 percent in prime-time. CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Moonlight, Ghost Whisperer and other CBS dramas in reruns last month due to the strike were down 40-50 percent from a year ago. Yikes!
"All across the country, the strike has killed everyone with the lack of a strong lead-in programs" to late local news, says Steve Minium, acting Channel 12 general manager.
Even Channel 19's 10 p.m. news was down from a year ago, despite huge ratings for "American Idol" again this season.It has been a very rough year for TV stations. May prime-time and late news viewing dropped preciptiously, due to nice weather, an early change to Daylight Savings time and increased use of digital video recorders. Premiere week ratings in September also were down from a year ago. And then came the strike, which wiped out new episodes for most popular dramas and sitcoms in February. "The writers' strike went on so long that people developed different habits," Minium says. "There are so many choices out there, and we won't know if they'll come back for a long time."
While Channel 12 took a big hit in the late news, ratings went up in the morning. So did ratings for Channel 19. These can be traced to a couple of factors – anchor changes at Channel 9 (Bernard Watson) and Channel 5 (weekend anchor Jonathan Hawgood replacing Todd Dykes), and Channel 12 being forced to take the CBS Early Show at 7 a.m. And more changes are coming, with Lisa Cornwell leaving 9, and Pete Scalia leaving 5.
Channel 19's ratings were up throughout the morning. And Channel 19 jumped to first place 7-9 a.m. here, ahead of the Today show or Good Morning America. Fox 19 has benefited from CBS' demand that Channel 12 drop its mostly local 7-8 a.m. show. Channel 12 has kept doing a local show 7-8 a.m. on its CinCW digital channel, though few are watching. It drew a 0.7 rating.
A few other notes:
--As usual, Channel 9 was a solid No. 1 in the 5-6:30 p.m. evening news, followed by Channels 12 and 5. (Despite the "Clash of Choirs" competition and heavy promotion at 5 p.m., Channel 5 still finished a distant third in household ratings. Station managers are hoping Channel 5 does better in demographics due out in a few weeks.)
--Channel 12 edged out Channel 9 at noon for the first time in years. Not sure why? Maybe Drew Carey’s presence on "The Price Is Right" 11 a.m.-noon?
--Channel 5's 11 p.m. news was third, beating "The Simpsons" on Channel 19. A year ago, it was the other way around.
So have you tuned out the 11 p.m. news? Switched to the morning news? Going to sleep earlier? Switched to Jon Stewart and Colbert? When new episodes of your favorite shows return, will you watch them and stick around for the late local news?