Channel 4 has been referring to itself as “Western New York’s news leader” for years, but that generic claim is debatable after the arrival of the November news ratings.
Channel 2 News now has the right to call itself it that if you’re adding up all the ratings points for the nine half-hours of local news when the news departments compete against each other on weekdays.
WNY is a market that is notoriously slow to change news leaders and once a station becomes No. 1 it generally has remained there for years, if not decades. Channel 7 was a dominant news leader for decades before Channel 4 overtook it and held the title for years.
Now it appears that Channel 2 — which was helped a year ago when Oprah Winfrey retired the popular talk show that gave Channel 4 a strong lead-in for its early evening newscasts for years – could be ready to assume the title for a lengthy stay if it doesn’t mess things up.
Channel 2 and Channel 4 compete directly on weekdays for four half hours from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., for three half hours from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and for a half hour each at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
I’ll try not to give you too many numbers, but remember I was a math major in college for a year and like arithmetic almost as much as Bill Clinton. According to my math, Channel 2 has a collective 62.0 rating points for the four and a half hours of news that it competes directly with Channel 4, and Channel 4 has a collective 56.8 rating points.
If you add the station’s ratings for its midday newscasts, Channel 2’s margin of victory is tighter. Channel 4 averages an 8.0 rating at noon to give it 64.8 rating points. Channel 2 averages a 3.8 at 11 a.m. to give it 65.8 rating points or a point higher.
The momentum is clearly with Channel 2. It had impressive ratings increases — during a very busy news month — from November, 2011 everywhere but for its 10 p.m. newscast on WNYO-TV. On the other hand, Channel 4 saw decreases everywhere but at noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Channel 2’s 4:30 a.m. newscast isn’t factored in because Channel 4 doesn’t compete with it. Similarly, Channel 4’s 7 a.m. “Wake Up” on WNLO isn’t being counted. Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscasts on Saturday and Sunday on WNLO weren’t factored in and nor was any weekend newscast because college and pro football make a mess of the news schedule.
Channel 2’s overall victory was fueled by its big wins for “Daybreak” over “Channel 4’s Wake Up” at 6 a.m. and at 5 p.m.
In co-anchor Jodi Johnston’s last sweeps period alongside John Beard, “Daybreak” saw audience gains of 30 percent from a year ago to a 7.4 rating, while Channel’s 4’s morning show in the first ratings period without Victoria Hong and Joe Arena slipped more than 10 percent to a 4.7.
In Johnston’s last sweeps period at 5 p.m. with co-anchor Scott Levin, Channel 2 saw about a 20 percent bump to a 10.7, while Channel 4 slipped slightly to a second place 8.1.
The good news for Channel 4 is that the newscasts co-anchored by Don Postles and Jacquie Walker still win at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. despite all of the station’s self-destructive changes in its news personnel over the last few years. Channel 4′s 10 p.m. newscast on WNLO also is still a big winner. Its 6 p.m. win was narrow. Channel 4 averaged an 11.0 rating to a 10.6 for Channel 2, which won from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. by healthy margins.
At 11 p.m., Channel 4 won, 9.1-7.1. It is helped by the strong lead-in it receives from CBS’ prime time entertainment programming. Channel 2 narrowed the gap from three points a year ago, possibly because of the improvement in NBC’s prime time programming.
Channel 4’s 10 p.m. win over Channel 2 was as decisive as usual – 4.8 to a 1.7 for Channel 2’s “10 at 10.”
If you’re wondering where Channel 7 is, it is deep in third in all newscasts. However, it is up from a year ago at noon, 5 p.m. and at 11 p.m. The 11 p.m. gain of 1.1 points is the most impressive and should give co-anchors Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri something to smile about.