Monday, March 2, 2009

Who Knew and Who Cares?

Woo-Whoo!!! TV Sweeps

Winter sweeps for 2009 get underway this Thursday. For the most part, however, nobody cares.

Why? The ratings period is taking place in March (March 5-April 1) instead of the traditional month of February. Nielsen moved to March because of the planned February switch to digital television that didn’t happen. The federal government moved the official DTV conversion to June 12th. Only one Austin station, KEYE TV (CBS), switched off analogy broadcasting in February. Further, Daylight Saving Time starts this coming weekend. That means fewer folks may be parked in front of their TV sets during an early winter evening.

All of these added together results in data for which there is no basis for comparison. You can’t compare this March to last February and make meaningful decisions about a station’s ratings.

KEYE –TV started February with a strong investigative report about government waste. “We’ve actually been pretty diligent about getting our franchise pieces on the air regularly. There was no pre-book launch with the Investigates piece your saw. It was a matter of timing and when the story was ready for air,” said Suzanne Black, KEYE news director. “March will not be a typical book for any market. March Madness knocks a lot of local CBS newscasts off the air or forces them into abnormal time periods.”

The March book also affects the personal lives of the news staff. “It’s unfortunate for families used to taking the week off for Spring break (or for SXSW for that matter), said Michael Fabac, KXAN TV news director. Even though it is March, Fabac says, “We are planning special promotable content” for sweeps.

At KVUE TV they’re taking it as it comes. “As far as sweeps are [concerned],every day is a sweeps day for us. We work to put on our best content each and every day,” says Frank Volpicella, news director. “Yes, there will be people inconvenienced because of spring break being in a sweep, (me included) but it’s all hands on deck during sweeps, and we’ll be business as usual.”

One other facet of sweeps in four weeks in March, it makes for a rather fast turn-around for the May book which may be more important than ever this year. The May sweeps actually start April 23, 2009. “We’re in the businesses of covering news every day, not just sweeps months,” says KEYE’s Black. “So, the March versus May turn-around is no big deal.” KXAN’s Fabac agrees. “True, the turnaround to May is tight, but we’ve had plenty of time to prepare!”

It’s like I used to say: No big deal. Every day is sweeps. Every day is “contest day”. Go crazy and have fun.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

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