Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweeps, November 2009

Trick or Treat

Yeah. TV sweeps started today (Thursday, October 29, 2009). I can’t get excited. I think that may be a pervasive feeling.

I remember not that many years ago when new shows would premier in September with much ballyhoo. We were all drawn to the warm glow of the TV screen. It was kind of exciting, like the start of football season, the first blustering norther, or the first fire in the fireplace. There were few distractions then. Yes, we could listen to our favorite DJ, or play guitar.

I remember tuning into KLIF AM (1190) in Dallas as a kid this time of the year. Russ Knight, “The Weird Beard”, could draw me away from the TV. Hmmm. Thinking of Dallas, KBOX AM, was a wannabe rock-and-roll competitor. Two stations. Things were simple then.

Looking at these sweeps, Fox might have an early edge with the World Series, if anybody here really cares about the Yankees and the Phillies. I’m always for the National League team, because I think that pitchers should bat. Pitchers are athletes too. (I have pitched.)

For the sweeps months in recent history, KVUE TV (ABC) was #1, KXAN TV (NBC) was #2, KTBC (Fox) was # 3 when competing against news, and KEYE TV (CBS) was #4. KEYE, perhaps, has been thinking-out-of- the-box more than other stations. It is also true that KEYE has fewer resources than other stations. They have a good product, and they have the most experienced anchor team in town.

Since a huge number of Austinites weren’t here in the 1980’s when that anchor team of Judy Maggio, Ron Oliveira, and Troy Kimmel ruled, anchor experience really doesn’t matter. Content is king. If a station has fewer resources creating content, it isn’t going to result in a larger audience most of the time.

Consistency counts in news, however. That’s probably why KVUE continues to be #1. Even with changes in anchors, their product is consistent. Mark Murray is still there. If weather is the driver, Murray’s presence matters. Further, KVUE’s reporters deliver. Management has done an excellent job of filling holes in the staff with quality people. Many longtime reporters like Quita Culpepper and Jim Bergamo remain.

KXAN’s anchor team of Robert Hadlock, Leslie Cook Rhode, Jim Spencer, and Roger Wallace could easily claim the consistency mantle. All are pros. To me, they are the most watchable anchors in town. Yes, they are also friends, as are KEYE’s anchors.

Two things drag KXAN down. First and foremost are technical issues that may be beyond the control of the news department. Wrong video airs. Worse, they go to black because the automation melts down. KXAN’s on-air issues are related to the automation of the studio and production facilities. When I see these things, I’m screaming at the TV. The other problem is a less-than-solid reporting staff. Jim Swift is as good as ever. Jenny Hoff does a good job with politics and the capitol, but she also anchors the weekend morning news. David Scott is a pro, but he anchors the weekend evening news. It’s a shame that Sally Hernandez and Chris Willis, the morning anchors, aren’t reporting more. Both are excellent. Shannon Wolfson is another fine reporter. She’s stretched thin because she also anchors the new 9 p.m. news on KNVA TV (CW), KXAN’s LMA (Local Management Agreement) sister station.

All the above stations are doing more with less. (Sigh.)

It should be noted that KTBC TV (Fox) does a good job with its hour-long 9 p.m. newscast, but I don’t know if their demographic is watching.

So, I don’t really expect the November sweeps to turn out much different if at all.

The only new thing about the November sweeps is that this will be the first rating period when Nielsen will be taking a look at the audience for the new digital sub channels. They will not show up at the end of the rating period, but if these new channels garner a 2 share, they will be included in the next sweeps in February, according to Amy Villarreal, President and GM at KEYE. Since most of the new digital station programming is Spanish language, those numbers could be interesting.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

P.S. Nobody wrote me saying that they could see the new KBVO TV off the air on digital 14. Either nobody can see them, or nobody is reading the post.


Anonymous said...


I flipped over to JB and Sandy radio show on KEYE-TV this morning and saw them talk about Alex having sweaty armpits for 18 years. They spent a lot of time talking about Alex's sweat problem, and Alex showed viewers his sweaty armpits.

I realize KEYE is airing JB and Sandy as means of cutting costs and possibily finding some Nielsen ratings magic. But the numbers so far show this radio show on TV is not working.

If KEYE is so insistent on sticking with JB and Sandy, it ought to insist that the radio show feature topics that would be interesting to views. Alex's sweaty armpits does not quality as an interesting topic.

Anonymous said...

I meant viewers in my last sentence.

Anonymous said...

P.S. EVERYONE (important) is reading your post, Mr. McNabb!

Anonymous said...

I can get KBVO over the air... but then, I'm in Llano so I can get it with a paperclip antenna and I'm probably not who you wanted to hear from about it. I have a good outdoor antenna so I get great reception of KXAN over the air, too -- but people around here who only had a small or indoor antenna probably lost their NBC.