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Ch.2 Gets Ratings Boost With Morning Head Start; Suhr on “Today”

You might have thought that starting the new 4:30 a.m. edition of Channel 2 during the London Olympics wasn’t such a good idea since so many Western New Yorkers are staying up until midnight to watch NBC’s coverage and presumably are sleeping later in the morning.

On the other hand, Channel 2 has been able to promote the new venture during the games. Just not as much as NBC is promoting Matthew Perry’s new NBC series “Go On.”

Insomniacs must be happy. Channel 2 began its new 4:30 a.m. edition of “Daybreak” on Monday, giving it a 30-minute morning head start on rivals Channel 4 and Channel 7. John Beard is anchoring the 4:30 program solo, with Jodi Johnston coming in later at 5 a.m. (if you want to call 5 a.m. later) to do her normal “Daybreak” shift.

John Beard: News for insomniacs?

There is a chance the earlier start time will enable Channel 2 to overtake Channel 4 at 5 a.m., where Channel 4 has benefitted in the past from the channel being on the station after local viewers retired the night before after watching CBS’ prime time programming or Channel 4’s highly-rated 11 p.m. news.

Channel 2′s strategy sure worked on opening morning. Monday’s 4:30 a.m. premiere had a 4.1 rating, more than double Channel 4′s 1.8 at the half hour with the CBS Morning News. The lead-in helped Channel 2 also win handily at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.. Of course, it has the advantage of being affiliated with the Olympics network.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner wrote in an email exchange that many NBC affiliates in the country have expanded their morning shows after the network allowed them to preempt their shows for local news. Gannett, which owns Channel 2 and many other stations, didn’t direct Channel 2 to start at 4:30 a.m., wrote Toellner. He added it was a “local choice.”

Toellner said he read about a year ago that the average time that people get up is 5:36 a.m.

“I don’t know how accurate that is but I do know people are getting up earlier all across the country including here,” wrote Toellner. “Many to work out at home or for many an early breakfast in the new family gathering meal due to hectic schedules.”

Then there are those who seem to get up earlier as they age. Like me.

Speaking of getting up early, “Today” viewers got a local treat this morning when NBC’s Savannah Guthrie interviewed Jenn Suhr, the WNY native who won a gold medal in the pole vault Monday. Let’s hope those who stayed up late to watch Suhr win Monday night caught the interview because NBC sure didn’t give it much attention in its prime time telecast.

NBC devoted about three minutes starting at 11:21 p.m. to Suhr winning after she and the silver medalist missed their final attempts at a higher level. It had earlier shown Suhr being successful on some attempts at lower levels.

Surely, WNYers sticking around until 11:20 p.m. expected to see a post-performance interview with Suhr, who after all won a gold medal. NBC’s cameras showed Suhr seeking out her husband and coach, Rick, and mentioned her triumph over illness and injury but there was no interview. Channel 2 couldn’t have been too happy about that, either. I imagine it will replay portions of Guthrie’s interview on newscasts today.

Aaron Sorkin’s most recent episode of “The Newsroom” certainly seemed like a commercial for President Obama. It revolved around the killing of Osama bin Laden and ended with the President’s address to the nation more than a year ago after the terrorist was killed. Politics aside, it was an excellent episode. The HBO series is improving weekly. The previews for upcoming episodes included a shot of Buffalo actor Stephen McKinley Henderson. It is unclear what his role will be.

It was a little embarrassing listening to Olympic analyst Brandi Chastain root for a United States-Japan final in women’s soccer during the U.S.’s controversial 4-3 overtime victory over Canada Monday afternoon. I’m no soccer expert, but it did seem like Canada was on the wrong end of some calls that helped the U.S. get a penalty kick that tied the game late. Speaking of embarrassing, I think I heard a NBC Network studio host misspeak and say the U.S. men’s basketball team lost to Lithuania. The U.S. won a tight game, which seemed like a loss to some.

There’s no surprise that the Buffalo Bills preseason game with the Washington Redskins will be blacked out Thursday. If you’re not a season ticketholder, you’ll be unlikely to pay regular season prices for the game. The team said that more than 20,000 tickets remain for the game, which means it would have been blacked out even if the Bills had accepted the 85 Percent Blackout Rule. Channel 7 will carry the game at 8 p.m. Friday after NBC’s Olympic coverage in a battle of tape delayed sportscasts. It will be interesting to see who wins – Channel 2 or Channel 7.


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Ch.2′s Olympic Rates Impressive, Absence of News Spoilers Is Silly

After further review, it is impossible to take a few days off from watching the London Olympics even if you go out of town.

As I wrote Friday, that was my game plan. I tried. Unsuccessfully. Avoiding the Olympics is about as easy as avoiding a promo for Matthew Perry’s new comedy “Go On.”

The London Games are one of the few remaining programs that are a shared experience. Practically everyone is talking about them even more than Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s love lives and Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

I went out to breakfast in New York City on Sunday and heard some people over at the next table giving their Olympic game plan. They DVR the nightly coverage because “the first hour doesn’t usually have anything of interest” and start watching at 9 p.m. or so and still finish by midnight because they can speed through the commercials.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28:  NBC Nightly News ...

Brian Williams: Olympic Spoiler (Getty Images via @daylife)

It’s a smart way to do it, though it can’t make NBC’s advertisers too happy.

I also got a call Sunday about the Olympics from a good friend of mine, Dusty Saunders, a legendary TV critic in Denver. He wanted to know how Canada television covers the Games. When I told him that CTV carries everything that is important (admittedly a subjective opinion) live, he wondered how badly that hurt the Buffalo NBC affiliate, Channel 2.

He sounded incredulous when I told him the Canadian coverage doesn’t hurt Channel 2 all that much, most likely because the people watching CTV during the daytime are senior citizens and other lucky people who don’t work during the day. I added NBC executives are right when they say most Americans find it more convenient to watch the coverage in prime time even though it isn’t live and they might know who won.

This isn’t to say that Channel 2 doesn’t get hurt some by CTV’s coverage, which doesn’t get rated in the States. It does hurt. As impressive as Channel 2’s ratings have been — in the 14.8 to 21.0 nightly – it has been one of the weakest of the 56 NBC affiliates rated in larger markets that comprise the overnights even though we think of WNY as a great sports town.

On Saturday night when NBC ran taped coverage of Michael Phelps’s final gold medal in a relay, Channel 2 averaged its lowest rating of the Games. It had a 14.8 rating, ranking 49th out of the 56 markets. That was a big dip from the comparable night in Beijing, which had an 18.8 rating on Channel 2.

Perhaps CTV’s coverage hurts more on Saturday, when even working people are off and can watch it.

On Thursday when Phelps broke the Olympic medal record and Gabby Douglas won the women’s gymnastics all-around, Channel 2 averaged a 21.0 rating, which was considerably higher than the 18.2 rating it received for the corresponding night in Beijing. However, Buffalo was only the 45th rated market out of 56 with the 21 rating.

Through the first nine nights of competition, NBC is averaging an 18.9 national, 9 percent higher than the 17.4 it averaged for those nights in Beijing. Channel 2 is averaging an 18.0 rating, which is in range of NBC’s average but only ties it for 46th among NBC overnight affiliates. It averaged a 19.3 for Beijing through nine nights. So Channel 2 is down about 6 percent from Beijing, largely because of Saturday’s 14.8 rating.

My educated guess is that viewership is still strong here because more people may actually be driven to watch in prime time when they know how well Americans have done than are pushed away because the action isn’t live.

To put Channel 2’s average of an 18 rating for the first nine nights in perspective, the highest-rated entertainment prime time show during May in Western New York was the long-running CBS drama “NCIS” with a 16.5 rating.

And Mark Harmon’s series only runs for an hour a week. The London Olympics is running four to five hours a night.

While in NYC, I also noted that the local NBC affiliate (which is owned by NBC) there runs “spoiler alerts” before giving Olympics results during the local newscasts that run before the network coverage begins.

I returned home Sunday to see if Channel 2 treats the Olympics the same way.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, Channel 2 sports anchor Stu Boyar showed the medal count in a tease before a commercial that delayed the sports report. His sports report focused on Michael Phelps’ Saturday relay win and the men’s volleyball loss to Russia on Saturday featuring an interview with WNYer Matt Anderson.

There was no mention of Usain Bolt’s win in the 100 meter race, which was the highlight of Sunday’s competition. Boo. Ten minutes later, the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” (which Channel 2 carries) gave spoilers via a photo that showed Bolt had remained the fastest man in the world.

Channel 2’s Olympic game plan on its newscast was just silly. If an NBC affiliate owned by the network and Williams’ newscast can give spoiler alerts, so can Channel 2. Check that, so should Channel 2.



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NBC Rides American Victories to Break Even

This is what I’m thinking while I take a few days off from watching the London Olympics:

Glad to see that NBC now says it is going to break even on its coverage of the Games because ratings have been so strong instead of losing $100 million on its $1.3 billion investment. NBC executive Steve Burke told the Associated Press the network thinks the ratings are so good because of the pre-Olympic promotion.

I’m not buying that, primarily because most of the promotion on NBC isn’t seen by many people because of the network’s low ratings.

More likely, NBC’s strong ratings are the result of the out-of-this-world performance by American athletes. The gymnasts led by all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the swimmers led by Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and other more surprising gold medalists are the reason for the strong ratings.

NBC also has put together terrific four-hour nightly productions and is benefitting from the fact that almost all the reality shows competing on rival networks are unwatchable.

It might just be me, but I actually enjoy watching the gymnastics more on delay when I know the young gymnasts like Douglas have performed well rather than when I worry that one of them will be emotionally shattered by a poor routine when I watch live.

Some local viewers are upset that NBC is holding the conclusion of big events like gymnastics to close to midnight on work nights. But, hey, that isn’t just an Olympic thing. Post-season professional baseball, basketball and football games on network TV end around midnight, too. People in the Eastern time zones forget that much of the country doesn’t have to stay up until midnight to see the end because their time zones are more viewer friendly.

Poor Canada. Its airwaves are about to be polluted by Charlie Sheen’s FX comedy “Anger Management.” CTV’s Olympic coverage is constantly promoting Sheen’s show, which reportedly is likely to be renewed despite a big dip in American ratings since the premiere. FX executives told television critics in Los Angeles recently that Sheen’s classy dad, Martin, will join the cast if the series is renewed. Talk about a big comedown from being President.

Speaking of comedowns, the First Family of reality shows – the Palins – have also been getting their share of promo love during Olympics. Sarah’s hubby Todd is going to be part of a new military style reality show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” that premieres on NBC the night after the OIympics. I’m told that Sarah Palin showed up with her husband at a NBC party in L.A. attended by critics and she looked marvelous.  

She may look good, but former Vice President Dick Cheney created a stir last Sunday when he told a network talk show that picking Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate four years ago was a mistake because she didn’t look capable of being president. Duh. Palin has fought back in the battle of words, but let’s face it she and her family are constantly proving they are much better suited to doing reality shows than she was running the country.   

I thought of “Saturday Night Live” star Seth Meyers’ signature line when I read a front page story in the Buffalo News recently that noted that liberals and Democrats watch MSNBC and conservatives and Republican watch Fox News. Really? Who didn’t know that? I’ve been teaching that people prefer watching the cable news networks that agree wiith their politics for six or seven years in my TV criticism class. It is called preaching to the converted.

My favorite CTV announcer is Rod Black, who is enthusiastic and astute as the play-by-play man on gymnastics. He is almost as good as Al Trautwig, NBC’s play-by-play man on gymnastics.

Channel 2 has been running promos during the Games extolling its 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. news hour as the best in Western New York. It is only the highest rated here because the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” is a big winner locally at 6:30 p.m. Williams’ newscast also is getting huge ratings during the Olympics. Channel 4 won the 6 p.m. battle over Channel 2 in July but the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on Channel 4 is a poor second in this market.


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Leno, Letterman Slip Big Time Here

Jay Leno, host of the Tonight Show. Cropped fr...

Jay Leno: Big Ratings Slide Here in July

It is 11:35 p.m., do you know where the viewers for late-night talk shows are?

The Emmy voters aren’t the only ones ignoring “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on NBC and “The Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS. Both shows failed to get nominated a few weeks ago.

More WNY viewers also are ignoring them, too.

According to the ratings for the July sweeps, Leno and Letterman have lost a combined 25 percent of their household audience from a year ago.

Leno has lost about a third of his audience from a year ago. Some of the loss can be attributed to the decline in the ratings for Channel 2 news at 11 p.m. But not all of it.

Leno still holds a slight edge over Letterman here, 3.3-3.1. The one 11:35 gainer locally is ABC’s “Nightline,” which still is third in the time slot primarily because of the poor lead-in from Channel 7’s 11 p.m. news.

Where are all the former talk show viewers going? Researchers believe they have most likely headed to one of the hundreds of cable channels, or perhaps to their DVRs and On Demand to watch shows at their convenience.

Leno’s local decline calls into question NBC’s decision to dump Conan O’Brien early and give Leno back “The Tonight Show.” Perhaps it should have waited a little longer. Not that Conan is a big hit here. His  TBS show at 11 p.m. gained .1 (one-tenth of a point) and now averages a .9 (that’s right nine-tenths of a point) here. Fox reruns of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” beat it here with a 1.0 average from 11:30-12:30.

Not that many local viewers are headed to Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show –which got some Emmy love — either. Kimmel’s audience grew about 25 percent on Channel 7 from a year ago for his post-“Nightline” show, but that’s from a 1.2 rating. The 1.5 rating he gets now is still less than half of the audience that Leno or Letterman get here. However, if Kimmel’s show started at 11:35 here and was on Channel 2 or Channel 4, he likely would give the older guys a run for their money.

The 12:35 a.m. shows headlined by Jimmy Fallon on NBC and Craig Ferguson on CBS both lost audience from a year ago but still beat Kimmel here.

One thing is clear from the numbers. Buffalo seems to be as tired of all the old talk show acts as the Emmy voters are.

Channel 2 is getting quite an Olympics bonus during NBC’s daytime coverage. It averaged a 7.6 average rating on Monday and Tuesday. Those are numbers the network affiliate would love to see NBC’s prime time entertainment programs get. Many of NBC’s prime time shows get ratings in the 2-5 range here.


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WNYers Get Best of Olympic TV Worlds


In Western New York, we have the best of both worlds when it comes to the London Olympics.

If we were home Tuesday afternoon, we could have turned on the local CTV affiliate out of Toronto to see swimmer Michael Phelps and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team make history on live TV.

If we were working or out enjoying the sun in the afternoon, we could have turned to the local NBC affiliate – Channel 2 – in prime time to see the much more theatrical taped coverage of the same historic events.

So we’re really not concerned about the national debate over whether NBC should be carrying everything on its networks live in the afternoon before it is carried on delay in prime time when it is 1 a.m. in London.

NBC has been hammered by some national bloggers who feel the network has made the wrong call in the technological age of social networks when it is nearly impossible to avoid knowing who won before the network starts its prime time coverage.

It is a silly argument, especially since NBC is streaming all events live and it is relatively easy these days to connect your computer to your TV. (I say that because even I can do it).

English: President George W. Bush poses for a ...

Michael Phelps: Greatest Olympian

The national slamming of NBC reminds me somewhat of all the local criticism of the Buffalo Bills for opting out of the new NFL Blackout Rule that would have allowed home games to be televised if 85 percent of the non-premium seats were sold.

Like the Bills in the blackout argument, NBC is making an economic decision to delay the big events to prime time. It spent $1.3 billion for the rights fees for the London Games and doesn’t want to risk losing any audience that could stand to cost it more in advertising and add to the already $100 million it expects to lose on the Games.

That’s pretty much the same reasoning the Bills have opted out of the new 85 Percent Blackout Rule. It doesn’t want to risk its season-ticket base and the revenue it provides.

The critics of the Bills and NBC have both argued their owners make enough money as it is so why not make their fans and viewers happy. That ignores their right to make money (or in NBC’s case lower losses) on their sizable investment.

I’ve seen some informal local unscientific polls that seem to support the Bills stand, though their critics get much more attention.

Similarly, NBC can point to its strong national and local ratings to claim that most American viewers support how they are doing things.

The London Olympics have had stronger than expected ratings and have outdrawn every day except Monday compared to Beijing in 2008 even though the network is streaming everything live this time around. NBC’s critics could argue the increased ratings when everything is being streamed live suggest that carrying events live on the networks wouldn’t hurt either. But the increasing number of viewers watching via streaming is relatively small compared to network viewership.

Monday’s audience loss comes with an asterisk because some of the Beijing coverage was live on the corresponding day four years ago and the events were more compelling.

Locally, Channel 2 has had strong ratings within the ballpark of Beijing despite NBC’s live streaming and CTV’s coverage. I’m told by network researchers that Nielsen no longer supplies Buffalo stations with the ratings for Canadian networks in the States. The Olympic ratings for Canadian stations have been historically low here. But Channel 2 has to be losing some viewership to CTV.

I would suspect that Tuesday’s national ratings for the delayed coverage of the historic wins by Phelps and the Fab Five women’s gymnasts will put NBC back on track. (THIS JUST IN: NBC averaged a 24.0 overnight rating, higher than the opening ceremonies and 4 percent higher than the same night in Beijing. Buffalo’s Channel 2 averaged a 20.2 rating, down from a 22.6 for Beijing).

Since I have the summer off recuperating, I’ve been able to watch a lot more of CTV’s and NBC’s coverage than usual.

My strategy is simple. I watch as much of CTV’s coverage live as I can and DVR the rest when I have other things to do in the afternoon. Then I come home and speed through the CTV coverage to see the important events before I DVR the NBC coverage. It makes sense to DVR NBC’s coverage, which after all isn’t live anyway. In that way, you can speed through the commercials and the parts of the competition that don’t interest you.

In any event, there are extra advantages to watching both networks.

With CTV, it is interesting to see how their announcers react to American victories or disappointments. The swimming play-by-play guy thought that Phelps had won the 200 butterfly for the third straight Olympics before he was out-touched for the gold by a South African swimmer.

“Michael Phelps makes history,” said the CTV announcer before quickly correcting himself. “No, he does not.”

“It was all on the touch,” added CTV’s female analyst.

“He is definitely not the dominate swimmer he used to be,” added the CTV play-by-play guy.

Phelps conceded that in an NBC interview with Bob Costas in prime time that aired after he was part of the winning relay team that gave him 19 Olympic medals, the most in history. Phelps added that he was just trying to enjoy himself more than he has in the past. And it showed.

NBC’s coverage of Phelps’ silver and gold Tuesday was much more dramatic than CTV’s coverage and included some terrific reaction shots of his mother, sisters and coach. There was a great shot of his mother thinking Phelps had won the butterfly, only to be told by one of her daughters he was second. The coverage of Phelps was great TV even if you knew the results of both races.

CTV gave the U.S. women’s gymnasts their due Tuesday afternoon, especially Jordyn Wieber, who became a sympathetic figure Sunday when she failed to qualify for the all-around competition because of a silly rule that only allows two competitors from the same company.

“She is a titan, an absolute titan,” noted a CTV announcer of Wieber, who performed splendidly.

CTV’s announcers were effusive with their praise of the Fab Five and made it clear much earlier than NBC that they had won the team title even before the final American had done her floor exercise.

“They’ve waited a long time to say it – the United States has won the gold,” said CTV’s announcer. “The Fab Five were fabulous. It is the first time since 1996 the U.S. has won the Olympic team competition.”

Once again, NBCs coverage was more theatrical and dramatic, focusing on the parents in the stands whose facial reactions illustrated they were with their daughters every step and misstep of the way.

NBC tried to put more suspense into it than there was. But, hey, that’s the American way.

To its credit, the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” noted 90 minutes before NBC’s prime time coverage started that since history was made it had to tell viewers about the Phelps and the Fab Five’s wins after warning those who didn’t want to know they were about to do so.

I’m not sure that many Americans who didn’t want to know were upset if they accidentally discovered who won from Williams or earlier from the social networks and the sports networks whose job is to give news when it happens. They social and sports networks shouldn’t and don’t have to worry about spoiling things.

NBC’s coverage has been so strong and compelling that even knowing doesn’t take away from the enjoyment most of the time. NBC’s ratings confirm that.


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NBC Rates Missy and Misty Highly in Prime Time

Call it the Tale of the Dueling Patriotic Features.

On Monday afternoon, CTV ran a feature on teenage swimming sensation Missy Franklin that emphasized the fact that her parents are Canadians and that she loves Canada and vacationing in Nova Scotia. It was one of those “I didn’t know that” moments. Sort of like finding out American swimmer Ryan Lochte is originally from a Rochester suburb.

On Monday night, NBC ran a feature on Franklin before she won a gold medal in the backstroke that emphasized her life in Colorado and the criticism her parents received for having her train in a state less known for swimming than California or Florida.

Franklin explained if she was moved away from her friends, coach and high school she probably wouldn’t have been successful because she wouldn’t have been happy. How sweet.

There wasn’t a mention of Canada, which probably seemed like an oversight to anyone who saw the CTV feature.

In any event, Franklin’s performance and upbeat personality have made her the early American star of the Games as noted by Olympic host Bob Costas.

Before the Games began, she also got attention for putting together a music video of Olympians singing the current Carly Rae Jepsen hit “Call Me Maybe.” It is a popular thing for athletes to do. A video of the song was previously done by the U.S. softball team and the Harvard baseball team.

By the way, Jepsen is a Canadian.

NBC is riding women’s beach volleyball in prime time, with Monday’s program featuring a John McEnroe interview with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings that included a fashion discussion. McEnroe asked them if they thought their bikinis had anything to do with the sports’ popularity. Duh. You think? After the interview, Costas suggested the most well-known or popular volleyball player before the sport became really popular was the late NBA star Wilt Chamberlain. That prompted Johnny Mac to suggest that Wilt (whose self-proclaimed record-setting sexual prowess became a national joke) would have approved of the bikinis.

BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 10: Misty May-Treanor of ...

Misty May-Treanor: Do Bikinis Matter? (Getty Images)

In response to an item here Monday that wondered how Channel 2’s advertising sales were doing during the Olympics because of all the “Better Days” promos running, Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner sent along an email noting that ad sales are up over 50 percent from Beijing in 2008. In other words, better days indeed for Channel 2. “It is like the potential messaging power of 6 Super Bowls,” wrote Toellner of advertising during the Olympics.

The ratings continue to be strong on Channel 2. Monday’s four-hour telecast had an 18.9 rating, down from a 20.1 in Beijing when the competition for the night was much more exciting. NBC’s overnight rating for the Top 56 markets was 20.1, down 5 percent from Beijing.   

AMC has killed “The Killing” after two seasons, the first of which impressed Emmy voters and a second that many viewed as unnecessary if the writers had just solved the murder at the end of the first season as expected.

My colleagues in the Television Critics Association gave out the following awards at the semi-annual meeting in Southern California over the weekend : Program of the Year: HBO’s “Game of Thrones”; Outstanding New Program: Showtime’s “Homeland”; Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials: PBS’ “Downton Abbey”; Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: FX’s ”Louie”; Outstanding Achievement in Drama: AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: “60 Minutes;” Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: “So You Think You Can Dance;” Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth.” Career Achievement Award: David Letterman.

You may note that not one current network scripted drama or comedy was honored, which could be a foreshadowing of what happens at the Emmys in September. It also was notable that AMC’s violent “Breaking Bad” dethroned AMC’s “Mad Men” as best drama. The one network series honored was NBC’s “Cheers,” which won the Heritage Award that annually honors a person or program that had an impact on TV history.

Note to Buffalo News critic Jeff Simon, who today wrote that “The Newsroom” creator Aaron Sorkin “proved to be so liberal he could invent a martydom for a fictional assistant to (former Republican presidential candidate) Rick Santorum.” A little research would have discovered the fictional gay, black aide appeared to be modeled after former Santorum aide Robert Traynham, who engaged in a spirited discussion with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in January.  The fictional aide in Sorkin’s episode did an excellent job defending Santorum and himself and making fictional anchor Will McEnvoy (Jeff Daniels) feel like such a bully that he went back into therapy. 


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NBC Stops Pretending; CTV Doesn’t Have to Pretend

English: Photo of Ryan Lochte during 2008 Olym...

Ryan Lochte: A former WNYer

The Top 10 things I thought about the first weekend of the London Olympics:

1) Give NBC News credit. It isn’t trying to pretend it is carrying events live in prime time. Of course, in this social media world it would look pretty silly if it tried.

On Saturday night, Brian Williams led the “Nightly News” with the information that Ryan Lochte had defeated Michael Phelps decisively in the 400 individual medley and won the gold medal because Williams knew everyone already was talking about it. But NBC just showed still pictures instead of the video of Lochte’s win and Phelps failing to medal at all. Bad call. I would suspect the Nightly News and the Olympics might have two different audiences and there would be no harm to prime time if it showed a few seconds of a race that ran for more than four minutes.

To his credit on Saturday night, Olympic host Bob Costas told the audience that NBC won’t be showing anything live in prime time because of the five hour time difference between London and the Eastern time zone in the States. NBC’s prime time coverage starts at 1 a.m. London time, when even TV can’t ask for events to be live. Costas added the prime time coverage will be carried as it happened, which I think NBC used to refer to as plausibly live or some other nonsense.

2) Buffalo is embracing the London Games at almost its usual pace to the surprise of those who thought interest around here might have declined. The opening ceremonies had a higher a rating on Channel 2 (20.9) than the Beijing Games did four years ago. Saturday’s coverage was down about 6 percent from Beijing with a 15.3 rating on Channel 2. That wasn’t much of a decline when you consider all the extra hours NBC is carrying and the fact that NBC is streaming everything live. Sunday’s local rating recovered to a 17.7, which was down about 15 percent from the 20.9 for Beijing. Nationally, Sunday’s coverage had a 21.7 overnight rating, which was higher than the first Sunday in Beijing.  

3)  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I didn’t realize Ryan Lochte was a Western New York native until he popped up in a commercial talking about growing up in Upstate New York. His bio notes that he was born in Canandaigua, a suburb of Rochester, but adds that he left for Florida with his family at an early age of about 5 or 6. Considering that, it was nice of him to give WNY a shout out. Since Buffalo makes just about anyone with a WNY connection its own, I’m surprised all the local stories don’t mention he is a WNY native.

4) Andrea Kremer did a good job interviewing Phelps after his Saturday loss. He seemed to be a loss for words, though he also seemed to blame his coach’s strategy in the race. Costas very kindly said that Phelps didn’t know how to react to an unfamiliar situation.

5) As expected, Ryan Seacrest is very comfortable doing interviews and also reporting on what is being said on the social networks about the Games. It wouldn’t be surprising if he took over for Costas as host in 2016 or was his co-host. CTV also has a segment on the social media’s reaction. I suppose it has a place, but if I wanted to know what the social media was saying then I’d go on Facebook or Twitter more often to find out.

6) Channel 2 sure is running its award-winning, uplifting “Better Days” about the City of Buffalo promo enough. It makes you wonder if it had any problems selling Olympic commercials. It also has premiered a promo about its investigative reporters which ends with the tag line “Get Ready.”

7) I confess I’ve been enjoying CTV’s live coverage in the afternoon, particularly the Lochte-Phelps battle Saturday. It enables me to go to bed at a reasonable time. I wish the Buffalo News would carry CTV’s live coverage plans and not just the plans of all of NBC’s networks.

8) Give CTV’s Brian Williams credit Friday  for accurately predicting the Parade of Nations in the opening ceremony would run long. Boy did it ever. Someone should have made director Danny Boyle hire an editor to trim the opening. It had numerous highlights and sensational moments, but was all over the place. I can’t say I’m blaming NBC for editing out a portion of the opening as much as some of its critics. I wish it had cut out more of the opening. I enjoyed the humor provided in the opening ceremonies by James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), but the Mr. Bean bit went on way too long.

9) The award for candor goes to American breaststroker Brendan Hansen, who after winning a bronze medal Sunday said: “Honestly, I’m really proud of myself.”

10) NBC’s Al Trautwig should be proud of himself. He does a terrific job on gymnastics. After American Jordyn Wieber was eliminated Sunday from the 24 women qualifying for the all-around — even though she was fourth or fifth among all competitors — because of a silly rule that states  only two gymnasts from the same country can make the finals, Trautwig said she immediately “is one of the most sympathetic figures in these Games.”




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O’Connell Flees The Breeze

Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O’Connell has left his moonlighting gig as a disc jockey at WECK’s “The Breeze.”

In an afternoon interview, O’Connell confirmed that Thursday was his last day at the station. He added that his contract was going to run out on Aug. 1 and he and Station Owner and General Manager Dick Greene couldn’t agree on a new one.

O’Connell did taped voice tracking on his daily music show, which was able to run on the AM and FM dials in the afternoons at the same time he was doing weather on Channel 2.

“There was no animosity,” said O’Connell. “I was looking for a higher economic level and Dick didn’t want to do that. He’s a good friend and I wish him well. It was a terrific experience and it is time to do other things. It was a lot of fun while we did it and I may do it again someday.”



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Ch.2 Olympic Rate Tops Beijing Opening


So much for that WBEN poll that suggested Western New Yorkers weren’t all that interested in the London Olympic Games.

The spectacular opening ceremonies Friday night directed by Danny Boyle of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame had a 20.9 overnight rating on Channel 2, which was slightly higher than the 20.1 the NBC affiliate had four years ago for the spectacular opening ceremonies in Beijing.

English: Danny Boyle at the 2008 Toronto Inter...

Danny Boyle: He Delivers Spectacular and Complex Opening

As impressive as it is to get 20.9 percent of area households watching a four-hour tape-delayed telecast, the rating only placed Buffalo 43rd among the big city markets measured overnight.

Nationally, NBC said it was its best opening ceremony overnight rating for an Olympics outside of the United States. The national overnight rating of 23.0 higher was 7 percent higher than the 21.5 overnight rating in Beijing and 15 percent higher than the 20.0 rating for the 2012 Winter Games in Vancouver. San Diego was the top-rated market with a 27.8 rating and the Top 20 averaged a 23.8 rating or higher.

The national rating for all markets was a 21.0,  12 percent higher than the 18.8 national rating for Beijing. NBC said Friday’s opening ceremony was the most-watched for a Summer Games in 50 years, even topping the opening of the Atlanta Games in 1996. That doesn’t make London the highest-rated. (A rating point is equal to more households annually because of population increases.) 

I watched CTV’s live afternoon coverage that started at 4 p.m. because I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay up until midnight to watch NBC’s coverage. I went to a movie, came home and stayed up until 1 a.m. speeding through NBC’s coverage on my DVR to get to the highlights (I knew where they were by watching CTV and wasn’t about to sit through the parade of nations again) to see the differences in the coverage.

NBC’s team of Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira did a much better job explaining what was going on in Boyle’s complex show than the CTV team of Brian Williams and Lisa LaFlamme. Of course, NBC’s team threw out more superlatives than the Canadians did about the show, Queen Elizabeth’s humorous cameo with James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” finish after what they called his shaky nervous start. NBC’s graphics also identified Kenneth Branagh, a brilliant actor who might not exactly be a household name in the States (especially since he was in a costume), and “Harry Potter” writer J.K. Rowling.

On the downside, were all those NBC commercials and Channel 2 promos. It’s a small price to pay for getting to watch these games on free TV. And thanks to my DVR, they weren’t a problem for me Friday.

As expected, NBC also showcased Ryan Seacrest as an “Olympics correspondent” and he did a decent job interviewing swimmer Michael Phelps and two young American female gymnasts who weren’t the easiest to interview.

I’ll have more thoughts on the Olympic coverage on Monday.






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Split Decision for Local News; Status Quo Here Nationally

Channel 2 News remains No.1 at 6 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Channel 4 News has reclaimed No. 1 at 6 p.m. and remains a dominant No. 1 at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

And Western New York isn’t buying into the tightening national battles in the morning or the nightly news.

Those are the highlights of the July sweeps, the least important of the four annual sweeps periods that concluded Wednesday night.

Locally, the only significant changes from May, which is much more important, is Channel 4′s reclaiming No. 1 at 6 p.m.. Channel 2 had won by a slight margin in May.

That’s good news for Channel 4, considering all of the personnel losses it has experienced in the past few years and the loss of Oprah Winfrey as its 5 p.m. news lead-in.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  Brian Williams of ...

Brian Williams: NBC Nightly News Tops Here

In the first sweeps since anchor Victoria Hong left the early morning “Wake Up!,” Channel 4 saw audience gains at  6 a.m. from a year ago and very slightly narrowed the margin of victory by Channel 2’s “Daybreak.”

Channel 2 continued to win at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the post-Oprah era. At 6 p.m., Channel 4 wins with almost the same margin that it had a year ago when it was No. 1 from 5 p.m. through 6:30 p.m,. It dominates at 10 p.m. and at 11 p.m., with Channel 2 closer to third place Channel 7 than it is to first place Channel 4 (which has the same rating that it had a year ago).

The 11 p.m. news is Channel 7’s highest-rated. It improved by 15 percent from a year ago but still gets just slightly more than half the audience of first place Channel 4.

Nationally, the big news is ABC’s “Good Morning America” challenging NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s evening newscast anchored by Diane Sawyer challenging the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Neither national race is tightening here. The rating for “Today” this July after Savannah Guthrie replaced Ann Curry as Matt Lauer’s co-host is higher than it was a year ago. “GMA,” which has the burden of following Channel 7’s low-rated morning show, also saw a slight audience gain but is still behind “Today” by the same margin it was a year ago. The national morning show getting the most improvement from a year ago is the new more serious-minded CBS program co-anchored by Charlie Rose. Its local ratings rose 29 percent from a year ago, though it remains deep in third place.

At 6:30 p.m., Williams’ national newscast improved slightly from a year ago and remains a strong No.1 here. The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley is No.2 here ahead of Sawyer’s newscast. That undoubtedly more than anything has to do with the lead-in Channel 4 gives Pelley and the low-rating that third-place Channel 7 gives Sawyer as a lead-in.

In other things to note, Channel 2’s 11 a.m. newscast with anchor Mary Friona saw its rating improve by 37 percent. It now has a rating that is higher than Channel 7 receives at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The syndicated “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” which leave Channel 7 for Channel 4 in September, continue to win the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. access hour. “Wheel” actually had a ratings gain from a year ago, while “Jeopardy” slipped 9 percent.

Channel 4 sports director John Murphy ended his run at the station on the final night of the July sweeps with a classy goodbye that thanked just about everyone at the station that he worked with for the last four years. That included General Manager Chris Musial and News Director Joe Schlaerth, who aren’t as popular with many Channel 4 staffers as they apparently are with Murphy. The newscast ended with Channel 4 co-anchors Jacquie Walker and Don Postles presenting Murphy with a large cake. Murphy began hosting his new Buffalo Bills talk show on WGR Thursday night.

If you’re looking for an Olympics alternative, Channel 2’s digital channel that carries Antenna TV will be carrying an “All in the Family” marathon from 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday that features the memorable episodes with the late Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson before he starred in the spinoff “The Jeffersons.”

One more thing about Olympic coverage for all of you who have 3D sets. OK, both of you. Time Warner Cable has a special 3D channel of Olympic events and also has On Demand content of the London Games. Also a reminder: CTV carries today’s opening ceremonies live at 4 p.m., hours before NBC’s taped coverage with Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. Because London is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the States, NBC won’t be carrying any events live in prime time. However, it will be streaming everything live.


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