With the February sweeps almost upon us, let's (finally) take a look at how last November's sweeps worked out for our local stations.
As always, ratings are tricky things. Their accuracy is doubtful, and they can be interpreted any number of ways.Not only that, but there are two different rating services - A.C. Nielsen and Arbitron - and they don't always agree. More often than not, their results are vastly different.
With all that in mind, here's a few highlights and lowlights from the November sweeps. This is by no means a comprehensive view, just a series of snapshots.
- ELECTION NIGHT: Probably the biggest shock of the November book came on election night - KUTV cleaned up.
Ch. 2 was the big winner in election coverage, beating Ch. 4 and leaving Ch. 5 choking on its dust.
In prime time, while KSL was pulling fours and fives in the ratings, KUTV was pulling 10s, 11s, 14s and 15s. (KTVX had less local coverage, although the numbers for the combined local/national hour was in double figures.)
Not only that, but Ch. 2 decisively beat Ch. 5 in the 10 p.m. news that night and in the 10:35 p.m. time slot when both ran election wrap-ups.
"We're ecstatic," said Maria Smith Moore, KUTV's station manager. "It's a real good indication of where people go when they want the information. It shows who they trust."
One possible factor in the upset win she mentioned was the fact that while Ch. 2's coverage was anchored by its No. 1 team - Terry Wood and Michelle King - KSL didn't pull out any of its big guns. Keith McCord anchored Ch. 5's coverage.
Quite naturally, the folks at KSL saw things a bit differently.
"We made the mistake of coming on, announcing the winners and going back to entertainment programming," said Bruce Lindsay, who serves as KSL's managing editor in addition to his duties as anchorman.
Ch. 5 aired election coverage from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., then went to "Rescue 911" at 9 p.m. to lead into the 10 o'clock news. Ch. 2 aired "Matlock" at 7 p.m., then went to election coverage at 8 p.m.
But whatever the reason, it added up to an astounding win for KUTV.
- COUGARS ARE NO. 1: The BYU football team didn't fare particularly well in December and finished nowhere near the top of the polls, but the Cougars had a great November on the field and in the ratings.
As a matter of fact, the most-watched program during sweeps was the BYU-Utah football game on Nov. 24.
It wasn't just the most-watched football game, it was the most-watched show, period.
The rating reached as high as high as 34 at one point during the game and the share was as much as 78 - meaning 78 percent of all those watching TV were watching the game. That's incredible.
Of course, the Utes also had something to do with those numbers. But the Utes by themselves weren't much of an attraction. Their Nov. 10 game at New Mexico, which was broadcast live by KUED Ch. 7, never rose any higher than a 2 rating and a 4 share.
BYU, on the other hand, was a smash in its other two November appearances on local stations. Both the Nov. 3 game at Air Force and the Nov. 24 game against Utah State drew ratings in the low- to mid-20s and shares in the 60s and 70s.
- NOON NEWS: Ch. 2 was a clear winner here, outdistancing Ch. 5 in both Nielsen and Arbitron. Ch. 5 did, however, show some improvement over November 1989 in both books.
But Eyewitness News at Noon finished third behind KUTV and "One Live to Live" in both Nielsen and Arbitron.
- THE TERRY WOOD FACTOR: In the first ratings book after the return of Terry Wood to KUTV, the station showed improvement in the ratings for the broadcasts he co-anchors.
Perhaps the most dramatic difference came in the Sunday night news. Ch. 2 made the somewhat unusual decision to have Wood - its No. 1 anchor - work Sundays while weekend teams are on duty at Ch. 4 and Ch. 5. And the ploy worked, with KUTV winning big.
Not a bad idea, particularly because Sunday is the most-watched television night of the week.
- WHO'S NO. 1 IN NEWS?: That's an interesting question for which there are several answers.
According to Arbitron, Ch. 4's 5:30 p.m. news pulled bigger ratings than either Ch. 2's or Ch. 5's 6 p.m. broadcasts. Nielsen showed exactly the opposite.
At 6 p.m., both services showed KSL with a 10 rating. But while Arbitron put KUTV two rating points behind Ch. 5, Nielsen put Ch. 2 a rating point ahead.
At 10 p.m., both services put Ch. 5 barely ahead of Ch. 2, with Ch. 4 trailing badly.
Is that confusing enough for you?
- OVERALL RATINGS: You've seen KTVX's advertisements proclaiming themselves "Utah's most-watched television station." They base that on something called sign-on to sign-off ratings and shares - an average of the station's numbers from the entire broadcast day.
According to Nielsen, these were the top five stations, their ratings and shares: 1. KTVX, 7/22; 2. (tie) KSL and KUTV, 6/21; 4. KSTU, 4/14; 5. KXIV, 1/3.
(By the way, that showed KTVX down slightly from November 1989, KUTV and KSL both down a rating and share point, KSTU up one rating point and four share points, and KXIV down a share point.)
According to Arbitron, it looked like this: 1. KTVX, 6/22; 2. KUTV, 5/21; 3. KSL, 5/20; 4. KSTU, 3/14, 5. KXIV, 1/2.
(According, in these numbers KTVX was down a share point, KUTV down both a rating and a share point and KSTU up three share points. KSL and KXIV showed no change.
- TALK SHOWS: Utah television viewers still love their talk shows. And, in many instances, they love them a lot.
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" was a smash on Ch. 5 at 2 p.m., pulling in almost as many viewers as the rest of the stations combined.
"Donahue" won its time period (although by a much smaller margin) at 4 p.m., as did "Sally Jessy Raphael" at 11 a.m. Both shows air on Ch. 2.
"Geraldo" didn't win at 3 p.m. on Ch. 4, but it put up a strong showing against "Days of Our Lives." "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee" also ran second for Ch. 4 at 9 a.m.
"The Joan Rivers Show" was struggling at 10 a.m. on Ch. 2 (it has since moved to 9 a.m.) and its future in this market is in doubt.
The one daytime talk show that really bombed was "The Marsha Warfield Show," a half-hour program from NBC. It pulled a 1 rating, and has since been canceled.
- LATE NIGHT: "M.A.S.H." hasn't exactly been supplanted as Utah's favorite choice after the news, but it isn't alone at the top anymore.
Both Arbitron and Nielsen showed "M.A.S.H." and "Night Court" virtually tied for first in the 10:35 p.m. to 11:05 p.m. time slot.
As for Johnny Carson, the King of the Night certainly wasn't royalty here. "The Tonight Show" trailed badly - it even finished fourth behind Fox's "A Current Affair" in the Nielsen book.
And viewers who did tune in didn't stay around. Nielsen showed a steady and dramatic decline from the show's first 15 minutes to its last 15 minutes.
"Tonight" however, did beat "The Arsenio Hall Show" in the half hour (11 p.m.-11:30 p.m.) that the two went head-to-head. Arsenio is a big hit nationally but extremely weak in Utah.
- BART BEATS BILL: Utah bucked the national trend when it came to the season's big Thursday night battle. "The Simpsons" on Ch. 13 out-rated "The Cosby Show" on Ch. 2.
In the four weeks of the November sweeps period, "Cosby" won once, the two shows tied once and "The Simpsons" won twice - and finished with a higher overall average.
"I think the day of King Cosby is kind of waning," said Smith Moore, Ch. 2's station manager.
- KSTU BUILDING: Although Ch. 13 isn't in the news business yet, our local Fox station had quite a bit to be happy about in the ratings.
Their cartoons in the early morning and afternoon are very strong. And KSTU's early evening sitcoms - "Alf," "Mr. Belvedere," "Who's the Boss?" and "Cheers" do very well.
Like the rest of the Fox network, prime time programming was not a big success in November.
But there's no doubt that KSTU has changed the landscape of local television - what used to be a three-horse race is now a four-horse race.