Local stations compete in television ratings race

November is one of those months in the television industry when prime time programs can be a little spicier and newscasts feature enticing special reports. It’s a Nielsen ratings month, when the national company surveys households to determine viewership for various programs. The results also determine what networks and local TV stations charge for commercial time.

The last major ratings period occurred in May. In the local market, the KKCO television station continued to lead in the important evening news ratings even as KJCT won the morning news block and KREX held on to the lead for noon news. KKCO is an NBC affiliate, while KJCT is an ABC affiliate and KREX a CBS affiliate.

At 10 p.m., KKCO led the way in the latest ratings, attracting 10 percent of households on weeknights in the Grand Junction-Montrose region. KJCT and KREX tied for second with 6 percent of households. According to Nielsen Media Research, there are about 75,000 homes in the local market. So KKCO reaches about 7,500 homes at 10 p.m.

While KKCO’s rating was a little lower than the 12 it achieved two years prior, overall local news viewership was slightly higher in May than it was in May 2008. A total of 22 percent of homes watched the news in May compared to 20 percent in May 2008. Local newscasts constitute the three most-watched programs at 10 p.m.

In the early evening competition, KKCO offers the only local newscast at 5:30. KJCT and KREX air local news at 5 and 6, with network news running at 5:30.

At 5 p.m., KKCO won the time slot with the national “NBC Nightly News,” which reaches 8 percent of local households. KJCT attracted 6 percent of homes, followed by KREX at 4 percent. KKCO easily won the 5:30 p.m. slot, with its local news drawing 11 percent of homes. KJCT pulled in 6 percent with “ABC World News,” followed by KREX at 4 percent with “CBS Evening News.”

At 6 p.m., KKCO won the time period again, this time with the popular game show “Jeopardy” attracting 11 percent of homes. KJCT local news attracted 5 percent of homes, while KREX local news pulled in 2 percent.

“If you add the other stations’ evening newscasts together, it doesn’t equal what 11 News is able to deliver with our 5:30 program,” Amanda Wagner, news director for KKCO, said in an e-mail to the Grand Valley Business Times. “Our 10 p.m. continues to maintain an edge, too, despite less than impressive prime programming from NBC.”

Experienced news and weather anchors offer an advantage for KKCO, Wagner said. News anchor Jean Reynolds has worked for the station for nearly 13 years, while weatherman Butch McCain has been on the air for nearly nine years and news anchor Glen Mills has been at the news desk four years. “It’s our professional, experienced staff that allows us to deliver stories that this community cares about,” Wagner said.

Kristy Santiago, general manager for KJCT, said, “We are happy with the progress we are making in our newscast time periods, particularly in the early evening.”

In the early morning, KJCT was the first local station to broadcast two hours of news and constitutes the most-watched station in that time period. KJCT attracted 2 percent of homes in the 5:30 to 6 a.m. period, then increased to 3 percent in the 6 to 7 a.m. slot. KKCO trailed in the early hours before catching KJCT in the ratings race from 6:30 to 7 a.m. KREX launched a 6:30 a.m. local newscast in the past year and garnered 1 percent of homes in May.

“Morning ratings have become more competitive, but we are still faring well,” Santiago said.

“Good Morning America” on ABC was the most-watched network morning program in May with 6 percent of households from 7 to 8 a.m., followed by the “Today Show” on NBC at 4 percent and the “Early Show” on CBC at 2 percent.

At Noon, KREX led the way with its local news attracting 3 percent of homes. Local news on KKCO drew 1 percent, as did the soap opera “One Life to Live” on KJCT.

KREX had the most prime time viewers, with CBS programs averaging 10 percent of homes in the 7 to 10 p.m. period weeknights. KKCO and KJCT were next at 5 percent.  KFQX, a FOX affiliate, had 4 percent of homes.

“CBS is off to its best season ever,” said Randy Stone, general manager of KREX and KFQX, discussing early ratings from major markets for the current season. In addition to the new hit “Hawaii Five-O,” Stone’s stations offer all the Sunday afternoon football games, including all but one Denver Broncos game this season. Stone said it helps to have the stations that also carry the NFL playoffs and 2011 Super Bowl, NASCAR, the NCAA basketball playoffs and World Series.

Despite the offerings from the major television networks, local news continues to be a major draw and a profit center for local stations.

“Our focus is on giving local news,” Stone said, adding that KREX added the 6:30 a.m. newscast in January in addition to providing 6 p.m. local news.

He said the four hours of Denver morning news on KFQX from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays provide important weather information for people traveling from the Western Slope to the Front Range. The newscasts also offer extensive coverage of professional sports teams in Denver. KFQX added Denver news from 5 to 6 p.m. weeknights and also airs 9 p.m. Denver FOX news.

“The 9 p.m. Denver news was the most-watched prime time program (in the local market) during July,” Stone said. The newscast competes largely with reruns of network programs during the summer, but also fares well during times when networks air first-run programming.

Stone said he thinks all the local televisions stations “do a great job,” and that his stations are active in upgrading their websites and presence on Facebook and other social media sites.

Late at night, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on KKCO was the leader with 8 percent of homes for the first portion of the program. “The Late Show with David Letterman” on KREX was next with 4 percent, followed by “Nightline” on KJCT with 3 percent.

Results from the November ratings period will be sent to local stations shortly before Christmas. That’s not soon enough to affect this year’s holiday advertising prices, but  will affect what stations charge during the 2011 holiday season. Next, it will be time to prepare for the February ratings.

Like KREX, the other local TV stations present information by various means.

“We will continue to provide local news coverage on air, online and on mobile platforms,” Santiago said.

Said Wagner: “Gone are the days of holding a story until the evening newscasts. 11 News has been the news leader in local television web channels, Facebook, Twitter and mobile web products.”

Despite the addition of new technology and more sources of news, local station managers suspect that news junkies still will seek media that can tell them stories directly. “The core is to be able to click that television on and know you’ll be able to see local news,” Stone said.