The Winter Sweeps Winners
With all of March madness, SXSW, the rodeo, and Texas relays, somehow this rather useless, but necessary Nielsen rating period, the sweep month, got swept aside in Austin, the nation’s 49th market. A little background: The winter sweeps are supposed to be in February, but the ratings were pushed to March because of the planned switch from analogue TV to digital TV, which didn’t happen for the most part in Austin.
Only KEYE TV (CBS) turned off their analogue transmitter, a fact the station is promoting—First in Austin to transmit in only DTV. The NCAA basketball tournament also often eliminated or pushed several newscasts on KEYE TV. That alone will skew the Neilsen numbers. The winter sweeps were also the first sweeps with all of the stations’ anchor teams in place in several months. Toss in Daylight Saving Time (DST) starting the second Sunday in March, and it makes for a potentially whacky book.
It finally dawned on me last week that I had not reported the results of the winter book, and it is almost time for the usually important May book. May sweeps start tomorrow (April 23)! I say that the May sweeps are usually important. The caveat this year is that the DTV conversion when the rest of Austin’s stations will turn off their analogue transmitters is now June 12, 2009. So, we will have another sweeps month with only KEYE TV in only DTV.
So, what did the March, 2009 sweeps tell us? March didn’t show a great deal of change. The Austin market remains highly competitive.
In the mornings, KTBC (Fox) won the 5 a.m. hour followed by KXAN (NBC), and KVUE (ABC). KXAN won the 6 a.m. hour, KVUE and KTBC were in a virtual tie for second, just a couple of points behind.
At 5 p.m. KVUE was the clear winner, followed by KXAN and KTBC. KEYE was a distant fourth place.
The 6 p.m. gets muddy because of the NCAA Basketball March Madness. Lots of people were watching basketball, not news. KVUE news was the clear #1, followed by KXAN, “TMZ” on KTBC, and KEYE, when they had a 6 p.m. newscast.
By 10 p.m. things settled down some, and the numbers are similar to the November sweeps. KVUE was #1. KEYE edged out KXAN for #2 by just a hair. “The Simpsons” on KTBC wasn’t far behind.
Saturdays, 6 p.m. news was muddled by March Madness again. The most people were watching basketball on KEYE. Otherwise, KXAN had the #1 newscast, followed by KEYE when they had a newscast, or KVUE and KTBC.
Saturdays at 10 p.m. found KEYE at #1, KVUE was #2 just a couple of points ahead of KXAN. “Mad TV” on KTBC was #4.
I am not going to rank the Sunday early news because the newscasts air at different times against network or other competition. For the Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts KVUE is #1, followed by a virtual three-way tie between KXAN, KEYE, and “The Simpsons” on KTBC.
One observation: KEYE pulled the plug on its analogue transmitter in the middle of the month, yet it seemed to make little difference. The CBS affiliate may have benefitted from basketball bringing in a strong lead-in audience for its 10 p.m. broadcasts on some nights. Further CBS continues to deliver the most-watched programming. KEYE appears to have been crushed without a compelling lead-in. The station’s moderate success also is possibly attributable to the fact that Austin is one of the most heavily cabled markets in the country, not to mention satellite penetration. Now, will it hold up during the next sweeps?
Now, as KXAN TV’s News Director Michael Fabac says, “It’s on to May.”
© Jim McNabb, 2009