I know many viewers think extended weather reports from Channel 4’s Pope Don Paul, Channel 2’s Kevin O’Connell, Channel 7’s Aaron Mentkowski and their backups are often overblown.
After all, it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to tell us what the weather is going to be like and we don’t really need five minutes about what is going on in Boston, Mass. or New York City.
But the high ratings for the first week of the February news sweeps – when parts of the area had significant snow and other parts were fearful it would arrive – indicate there is a good reason for the top two stations in town to use their promotional slogans of 4 Warned and Storm Team 2.
When the weather gets scary bad here, the ratings get scary good.
A year ago, February weather was surprisingly good around here and that hurt news viewership.
In the first week of this February’s sweeps, Channel 2’s ratings were up 19 percent from the corresponding week a year ago at 6 a.m., up 13 percent at 5 p.m., down 2 percent at 5:30 p.m. and up 11 percent at 6 p.m.
The increases were even higher in some time periods at Channel 4. It was up 16 percent at 6 a.m., up 4 percent at 5 p.m., up 13 percent at 5:30 p.m. and up 35 percent at 6 p.m.
Third-place Channel 7 was up 19 percent at 6 a.m., down 11 percent at 5 p.m., up 10 percent at 5:30 p.m., up 17 percent at 6 p.m. and up 30 percent at 11 p.m. Of course, it is easier to have high percentage increases when your ratings are low.
The order of finish in the first week generally is the same as it was a year ago. Channel 2 remains No. 1 at 6 a.m., 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., as it was a year ago.
However, Channel 4 now has a slight lead at 6 p.m. after losing the first week in February of 2012. At 11 p.m., Channel 4’s lead has grown over Channel 2, which now is closer to third-place Channel 7 than first place. Channel 7 is within a point of Channel 2 in that time slot.
Channel 2’s problems at 11 p.m. continue to revolve around the weak lead-ins it gets from NBC’s 10 p.m. programs including the new “Do No Harm.”
The first week gains from a year ago at 6 a.m. for the new “Wake Up!” anchor team of Diana Fairbanks and Jordan Williams had to be encouraging to Channel 4 executives. However, Channel 2’s “Daybreak” has a bigger lead at 6 a.m. than it had a year ago and all three morning news programs experienced gains.
With the big national storm predicted for today and the possibility of a mess in Western New as well, local news viewership should continue to be as strong as the predicted winds in week two of the sweeps.
It certainly will be interesting to see if the predictions of what would be a fairly typical Buffalo winter storm will prove to be accurate.
As I write this, I look out from my seventh floor apartment window in Buffalo and see traffic moving at a normal pace and just a dusting of snow on my car. That is expected to change by this afternoon, which should pull in more news viewers at 5 p.m. and throughout the night.
While we are on the weather front, I’m hearing from sources that Channel 4 already had someone in a week or two ago interviewing for the posted opening for a meteorologist.
Say goodbye to Ricki: The syndicators of Ricki Lake’s talk show announced this week that it won’t be back for a second season. It didn’t get much of a viewership on Channel 7 and has pulled down the audience for Katie Couric’s talk show that followed it.