Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Oct. 30) -- extended opening night of the "sweeps" edition
10/31/08 01:15 PM
By ED BARK
Smells like -- "sweeps spirit." Whatever that smells like.
So we'll pay the usual extra attention during this fun fall time of the year that began Thursday and ends on the day before Thanksgiving.
First, though, I'll follow the basic advice of your typical "damage control" image consultant. You ask yourself a list of questions you think might be asked and then answer them rather than let the media "frame" the issue.
That way you can "preempt" any potentially dogged, snarky or brain-dead bubbleheaded queries from the likes of hard-charging Victoria Secret or soft-serving Don E.Z. Lay. Except that this isn't damage control. It's just me being a bit of a smartass. But an honest one.
First question, please, and I see it's from Uncle Barky himself, who apparently will have a few followups.
Am I going to continue with unclebarky.com's tri-annual "This Just In: A Night in the Lives of D-FW's latenight newscasts?"
Will I start at very beginning of the "sweeps," and then watch 80 weeknight newscasts in their entirety on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11, as I have since this insane endeavor began during the February 2007 sweeps? (roughly a half-year after unclebarky.com's Sept. 17, 2006 launch)
No, not quite.
Am I thinking you might not have enough information yet?
Am I going to give you more?
Yes. We're in the final days of a little thing called the presidential election, which somehow seems more important than the locals at the moment. But never fear -- or just plain fear (or think who the hell cares?) -- because we're not giving up.
Am I going to do anything at all about trying to make even a small dent in the oft-shoddy way that TV news is packaged and presented in the fifth largest TV market in the country?
Yes, but dent is way too big a word. Maybe a better metaphor would be a surface scratch that's all too easily covered up with a few dabs of touch-up paint by whoever happens to be running the local shows -- from here or increasingly, from afar.
So we're planning to resume "This Just In: A Night in the Lives of D-FW's Newscasts" on the Wednesday after the presidential election at the earliest. Or maybe on the Monday following Nov. 4th if the election somehow isn't decided yet. That's had a way of happening, you know.
Do I know what the February sweeps will bring?
In terms of health, wealth (hah!) and determination, no. But I hope to be doing another fully-loaded, 80-newscast special. It's just that this pesky little thing about our country's future hanging in the balance got in the way this time. By February, maybe we'll have a few new featured anchors and certainly a lot of new supporting characters. Or maybe just more vacancies that won't be filled. You can be assured it'll be something.
Am I going to make that my final answer?
For now, yes.
AND NOW TO THE OPENING NIGHT NIELSEN SCORECARD
We have a new tool here, too. It's called "Persons2+", otherwise known as total viewers. They're a more fair comparison than the total homes numbers we've had to use so far. Mainly because people watch TV, and oftentimes more than one of 'em is watching in a given living room, bedroom, whatever.
Nielsen Media Research long has measured this always-shifting terrain as well as anyone likely ever will, until we reach the point where everybody has a surveillance camera in their homes. National networks have used the total viewers stat for years. Some don't use it at all, but only if their younger audience haul is appreciably better.
The locals haven't exactly shouted out this statistic in their news releases, because it occasionally tells a different story. Often not much of a different one, but in a very close race, it sometimes can be the difference between first and second --- or even third. That will be duly noted if it happens in the final November "sweeps" results.
We're not going to totally abandon the old household number until November 2009, when accurate year-to-year comparisons can be made in the the three major stats that all newsroom managements watch very closely: Total homes, total viewers and persons between the ages of 25-to-54.
As we've noted here literally thousands of times, the 25-to-54-number is the main advertiser target audience for news programming. And as even the biggest TV spin doctor will concede, if you win with these viewers you can declare victory without much resistance -- at from least behind the closed doors of losing rival stations, who invariably are trying to figure out ways to "get younger."
Still, total viewers matter most of all, so we're going to start with that stat from Thursday's November "sweeps" opening night.
One more thing: I have the very latest and accurate 2008 Nielsen-approved, D-FW populations for a wide variety of age groups. In the stats that matter, they're all up just a bit year-to-year, but not to any really significant degree. Usually it's only several hundred extra people or TV homes per rating point, but it beats having to cope with a smaller viewing pool from year to year, which is the case in many markets.
So trust me, they're accurate. And I've been doing this w-a-a-a-ay too long to be anything but certain of that. So let's get started, using the usual numbers and with the traditional opening night trimmings. Only 19 more weeknights to go.
10 P.M. OPENING NIGHT NEWS NUMBERS -- TOTAL VIEWERS
WFAA8 -- 298,935
CBS11 -- 205,933
NBC5 -- 166,075
Fox4 -- 119,574
WFAA8 -- 221,610
CBS11 -- 151,890
NBC5 -- 126,990
Fox4 -- 94,620
WFAA8 -- 127,483
CBS11 -- 94,094
Fox4 -- 88,024
NBC5 -- 60,706
6 A.M TOTAL VIEWERS
Fox4 -- 106,288
NBC5 and WFAA8 -- 86,359 apiece
CBS11 -- 39,858
Fox4 -- 97,110
NBC5 -- 72,210
WFAA8 -- 69,720
CBS11 -- 34,860
WFAA8 -- 75,883
Fox4 -- 66,777
NBC5 -- 60,706
CBS11 -- 27,318
6 P.M. TOTAL VIEWERS
WFAA -- 179,361
NBC5 -- 112,931
CBS11 -- 106,288
Fox4 -- 79,716
WFAA8 -- 131,970
NBC5 -- 94,620
CBS11 -- 72,210
Fox4 -- 54,780
WFAA8 -- 75,883
NBC5 -- 45,530
CBS11 and Fox4 -- 30,353 apiece
Fox4 -- 119,574
NBC5 -- 112,931
WFAA8 -- 99,645
CBS11 -- 19,929
NBC5 -- 94,620
WFAA8 -- 92,130
Fox4 -- 82,170
CBS11 -- 12,450
WFAA8 -- 63,741
Fox4 -- 54,635
NBC5 -- 48,565
CBS11 -- 6,070
BRIEFLY AND BLUNTLY PUT
Although it's been said many times, many ways, I'll say it once more. WFAA8 has the 6 and 10 p.m. races locked up in all three ratings measurements. It would be a titanic upset if the station lost in any of these three major food groups. For now at least, rival stations are still on Titanics.
So the very important consolation prize is at 10 p.m. It's been that way for quite some time now, with NBC5 and CBS11 again battling for the runnerup spots. We'll get into this much more later.
The real races for first place are at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.. And they're both three-way battles among Fox4, NBC5 and WFAA8.
Who's come from the ashes from last November? The Peacock in the face of green weenie sandwiches in prime-time from the network that owns it.
At 6 a.m. NBC5 inarguably has made incredible strides ratings-wise after taking maximum heat for replacing meteorologist Rebecca Miller with Jennifer Lopez earlier this year. The station wasn't even on the 6 a.m. map at this time last year.
And at 5 p.m., long-dominant WFAA8 is being seriously threatened on two fronts, again by NBC5 and Fox4. So it should be interesting. Or at least I think it is. We'll see.
Thursday's -- let's put it charitably -- disappointing home opener against the arch rival Houston Rockets drew TNT's A-team announcing crew of Marv Albert, Mike Fratello, and brother and sister Reggie and Cheryl Miller.
It might be a while before we see them again -- maybe not until the 2010 NBA All-Star game, officially announced by Mavs owner Mark Cuban Thursday but being played under Jerry Jones' new Arlington big top.
Anyway, the Rockets' 112-102 win, in which they dominated Dallas in the fourth quarter, drew an average of 99,645 total viewers and 92,130 total homes in D-FW.
OK, one more Mavs stat, and then I'm blowing the whistle.
The game drew 29,239 males in the 18-to-49-year-old age group. That 's the gold standard measurement for sports and entertainment programming.
Cuban can only hope that the old male adage holds: Fool us once, fool us twice. But if you're still fooling us halfway through the season then we won't get fooled again until near playoff time. And As a lifelong sports fan, I'd give the Mavs no better than a 50-50 chance of making it this season.
For rebuilding purposes, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all. In fact it might be great.