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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Aug. 25) -- Talent rolls before Rangers mop up

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
NBC’s America’s Got Talent, getting down to the nub of crowning another winner, ran away with Tuesday’s 7 to 9 p.m. ratings before the Texas Rangers were a hit in the 9 p.m. hour.

AGT drew 244,090 D-FW viewers and 85,153 in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

The postseason-contending Rangers’ tough home loss to Toronto, in which they lost a ninth inning lead, averaged 160,402 total viewers for the full game, with 63,076 in the 18-to-49 age range.

From 9 to 10 p.m., though, those numbers ballooned to time slot-winning numbers of 202,246 total viewers and 85,153 within the 18-to-49 motherlode.

ABC’s 8 to 10 p.m. dollop of Extreme Weight Loss again was Tuesday’s biggest overall loss leader. It had just 55,792 total viewers and shrunk to 18,923 in the 18-to-49 demographic.

Here are Tuesday’s local news derby results.

CBS11 swept the 10 p.m. competitions with wins in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for news programming).

Fox4 regained control at 6 a.m. with twin wins while TEGNA8 fell from Monday’s first place finishes to a third-place tie with CBS11 in total viewers and a fourth-place flop with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 had the most total viewers at 6 p.m., but TEGNA8 won in the 25-to-54 measurement. NBC5 ran the table at 5 p.m.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Aug. 24) -- back to school is mostly sunny side up for early morning newscasts

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Three months of no school and family vacations always mean diminished ratings for D-FW’s early morning newscasts.

But whether overcast or not, the sun came up Monday with the return to classrooms and upticks in parental watching to see if anything might be amiss.

Compared to Monday, Aug. 17th, Fox4, NBC5, TEGNA8 and CBS11 all saw increases in the key 25-to-54-year-old news demographic while three of the four stations increased their total viewership from a week ago during the most-watched 6 to 7 a.m. hour. The prime beneficiary was TEGNA8, which more than doubled its audience in both ratings measurements.

Here’s a look at how they fared on what amounted to Super Bowl Monday. Plusses and minuses from the previous Monday are in parentheses.

Total Viewers
Fox4/TEGNA8 -- 88,570 (plus 26,501 & plus 53,700)
NBC5 -- 63,463 (plus 9,066)
CBS11 -- 42,541 (minus 9,764)

25-to-54-Year-Olds
TEGNA8 -- 49,192 (plus 33,190)
Fox4 -- 42,673 (plus 10,372)
NBC5 -- 31,412 (plus 2,371)
CBS11 -- 27,856 (plus 5,334)

It’s just one day, but those are quantum leaps for TEGNA8, which ran last in the two key ratings barometers on Monday, Aug. 17th. On Monday, Aug. 24th, the station went straight to the head of the class with a polished apple in hand.

In prime-time, Fox4’s 9 p.m. local newscast had the biggest overall audience with 195,272 total viewers. Among 18-to-49-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for entertainment programming), NBC’s American Ninja Warrior led with 69,384 viewers.

Here are Monday’s other four-way local news derby results.

TEGNA8 had the most total viewers at 10 p.m. while Fox4 led with 25-to-54-year-olds.

NBC5 swept the 5 p.m. competitions and also placed first at 6 p.m. in the 25-to-54 realm. CBS11 drew the most total viewers at 6 p.m.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Fort Worth-based NBC5 tabs Mark Ginther as new vp of news

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By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
NBC5 has named Mark Ginther as the Fort Worth-based station’s vice president of news.

Ginther, who was assistant news director at rival TEGNA8 from 2006-’08, succeeds Susan Tully, who in June was named president and general manager of NBC-owned WVIT-TV in Connecticut.

The announcement came Monday, with NBC5 president and general manager Tom Ehlmann touting Ginther as “a seasoned news professional who knows how to relate to important news and information in a way that is meaningful to local audiences.”

Ginther, who starts on Sept. 14th, will arrive from NBC affiliate KING-TV in Seattle, where he has been executive news director since 2008. He also helmed Seattle’s 24-hour news channel, NWCN Cable.

“NBC5 is a strong news station in a growing region of the country,” Ginther says in a publicity release. “I’m excited about joining a team committed to great journalism and community service.”

The University of St. Thomas graduate also previously was news director at WHO-TV, the Des Moines, Iowa NBC affiliate.

Tully spent 14 years as the head of NBC5’s news department.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs.-Sun., Aug. 20-23) -- Comatose Cowboys? Doesn't matter

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
The Dallas Cowboys’ flatline performance Sunday night in a 23-6 loss at San Francisco did not dull the ratings for CBS11’s presentation.

In fact, the pretend game did significantly better in D-FW than the Aug. 13th opening pre-season loss at San Diego, which weighed in at 536,998 viewers and 245,996 in the advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

Cowboys-49ers, which stretched (and yawned) from 7:05 to 9:58 p.m., pulled in 634,634 total viewers and 271,227 in the 18-to-49 age range.

Meanwhile, on Fox Sports Southwest, the streaking Texas Rangers’ Sunday afternoon win at Detroit drew 90,662 total viewers and 34,692 in the 18-to-49 demographic.

Mind you, the Rangers have come roaring back to currently claim the second post-season wild card spot in the American League. And the Cowboys again benched many of their key players, with quarterback Tony Romo making an opening cameo appearance for three downs before somehow staying awake from the team’s bench for the rest of the game. Still, the Cowboys drew seven times as many total viewers as the Rangers and nearly eight times as many 18-to-49-year-olds.

This further solidifies TEGNA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen’s oft-stated pronouncements -- and he loves making them -- that the Cowboys are a ratings Gila monster to the Rangers’ ant hill. Hansen might want to sell station management on a weekly 6:30 p.m. sports special in which various Cowboys alternately are shown walking their dogs, eating ice cream or throwing water balloons at one another. For a big finish, selected players could compete in an Albertson’s grocery cart demolition derby hosted by Jason Witten. The timing couldn’t be better.

Sunday’s big scripted series premiere, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead prequel, came alive to outdraw everything except the Cowboys from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Fear had 188,292 total viewers and 138,767 in the 18-to-49 motherlode. That’s an extremely impressive percentage of the viewers that many advertisers will pay a premium to reach.

CBS’ regular Sunday prime-time lineup, sent packing to sister station TXA21, was led by a 7 p.m. episode of Big Brother with 111,584 total viewers and 53,615 in the 18-to-49 age range.

Over on Fox, the network probably shouldn’t have bothered with a Rams-Titans pre-season game -- at least not in these parts. It had 34,870 total viewers on Fox4 opposite the Cowboys.

The Rangers’ most-watched games in total viewers were a Thursday loss and a Friday win at Detroit. Each game averaged 125,532 viewers. Saturday night’s Rangers-Tigers game, exiled to Fox Sports 1, dipped to 83,688 total viewers.

Here are the four-way local news derby results for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday -- TEGNA8 had the most total viewers at 10 p.m., but NBC5 led with 25-to-54-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for news programming).

Fox4 and TEGNA8 tied for first at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements.

There was another tie at 6 p.m., with TEGNA8 and CBS11 sharing the lead in total viewers while NBC5 won a close four-way fight among 25-to-54-year-olds. The 5 p.m. golds went to the Peacock in total viewers and TEGNA8 with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Friday -- TEGNA8 edged CBS11 in total viewers at 10 p.m. but ran slightly behind NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox4 won by paper-thin margins at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements, with NBC5, TEGNA8 and CBS11 all bunched up close behind for the last weekday early morning newscasts before Monday’s big back-to-school blowout (in which all four stations likely will shake off the summer doldrums and see some ratings gains).

NBC5 otherwise dominated with doubleheader wins at both 5 and 6 p.m.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Multi-honored WFAA-TV investigator Byron Harris talks about exhaling after 40-plus years of pushing hard

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Then and now: award-laden investigative reporter Byron Harris

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Byron Harris, dean of D-FW television’s investigative reporters, initially will be separating himself from WFAA-TV (TEGNA8) in a big way after retiring on Oct. 9th.

Although his right foot is in a cast from a recent mishap, “I’m gonna go flying-fishing in Slovenia with my wife (Linda), who’s my fishing buddy,” Harris said in a telephone interview Monday morning with unclebarky.com. “We enjoy going to weird places.”

Harris, who celebrated his 40th year at the Dallas-based station on Oct. 20th of last year, has chosen to exit TV journalism on his 69th birthday. TEGNA8 officially announced his retirement on Friday, with president and general manager Mike Devlin saying in a statement, “Byron’s body of work is so extensive that it is nearly impossible to adequately portray the impact and changes his reporting has produced.”

His trophy case alone could buckle the knees of a circus strongman. Since coming to Dallas in 1974, Harris’ investigations have won him two George Foster Peabody awards, four Edward R. Murrow awards, four Gerald Loeb awards and six duPont-Columbia awards. These are the most prestigious national honors in the television news business.

Harris was hired by late, legendary news director Marty Haag, in whose name WFAA dedicated its newsroom on Nov. 11, 2013 just before the Gannett Company officially took control of the station from Belo Corp., its longtime Dallas-based owner. (Gannett recently spun off its TV holdings into a separate company, TEGNA, Inc.).

Harris, reporter Doug Fox and anchor-reporter Tracy Rowlett all were hired in rapid succession from Oklahoma City’s KWTV-TV, where they had resigned in protest of the station’s handling of an expose on local car dealers. They were dubbed the “Oklahoma Mafia,” but Harris said he doesn’t remember how that came to be. “In fact, I don’t think it was coined inside the station. I think it was someplace else.”

He began his career as a film editor at Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV before hitting the streets as a photographer for an Amarillo TV station. There were no live shots back then and “most of the film we shot was silent,” Harris said. “When you went out with a sound rig, it weighed about 50 pounds. You had all this stuff hanging off you . . . Now you can shoot a story with your phone.”

Harris said he had hoped to retire earlier, but was waiting on the resolution of a lawsuit involving his investigation of questionable spending of millions of dollars on dental Medicaid. He won his sixth DuPont-Columbia for those reports and the suit was dismissed earlier this summer.

“Clearly it was a big load off my shoulders,” Harris said. ”When you get sued it has a way of dominating your life. It was a nuisance lawsuit but it went on for a long time.”

The television news business now requires reporters to tailor their stories for three separate “platforms” -- TV, the Internet and “social media” (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

“It’s kind of like re-writing it in French,” Harris said of retooling a TV story for the Internet. “Television relies on pictures and the Internet is like writing a print article. You have to re-think the whole thing in many cases. But it doesn’t do any good to wish for the good old days. There are never any good old days in anything. It’s only today and tomorrow. Is it a pain in the neck to have to do an Internet version? Yes, but ultimately more people read the print story than look at the TV story. You have a great reach on the Internet. But social media is frankly still mystifying to me.”

Being an investigative reporter inevitably comes down to the big finish -- confronting the alleged wrongdoer. It’s seldom if ever a walk in the park and oftentimes a gut-grinder. But it’s what Harris signed on for.

“Whether it’s by phone or by camera, it’s always the last step in the process that you know is going to be there from the first moment of the story,” he said. “And so you’ve been preparing yourself intellectually for it and how you’re gonna do it. So it’s really just acting it out. Some are more stressful than others. I’m probably going to do one today. We’ll see what happens. You just never know. You have to kind of think of it as doing the right thing. If a journalist is doing the right thing, then this is the apotheosis of that.”

Down the stretch, Harris said he had to face the fact that television is first and foremost a visual medium. In short, the older you are, the less telegenic you get.

“When you look at the world through your brain, it looks the same,” he said. “But then I see myself on television and I think, ‘My God, that guy looks old.’ In some ways, being old can be an advantage. But in some ways it’s a disadvantage. Television is a place for younger faces. To say that isn’t an issue would be wrong. It’s an issue.”

Fellow veteran TV gumshoe Becky Oliver recently retired after a 24-year career at rival Fox4. But Harris’ longtime running mate, Brett Shipp, remains in place at TEGNA8 and also has racked up numerous prestigious awards over the years.

“I’m sure Brett’ll be here,” Harris said. “He gives me energy every day, just looking at how hard he works. I don’t expect his zeal to subside at all. I expect him to be allowed to continue for another decade to come, two decades, whatever.”

Harris plans to make a clean break, first with that fly fishing trip to Slovenia and also by reading, taking photographs, “all kinds of things. In TV, you really have to devote your whole life to it. You don’t have a lot of real mentally free time.

“I think a lot of people leaving this business have a big exhale.”

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net