Who's No. 1? Well, if the ratings numbers from the February sweeps period are to be taken at face value, everybody is - and nobody is - at least as far as the three local network affiliates are concerned.
According to figures released this month by the A.C Nielsen Co. and the Arbitron Ratings Service, KUTV, KTVX and KSL are in an absolute dead heat for viewership when the ratings for the entire broadcast day are averaged. Nielsen has all three stations with a 7 percent rating and a 23 percent average share. Arbitron, meanwhile, gives The Big Three a 6 rating, with KUTV edging out KTVX and KSL slightly in the audience share. (A rating is a percentage based on the total number of available television sets in the area, while the share is based on the number of sets actually in use at the time.)As nice as it is for everyone to feel like a winner, however, the average has to concern the affiliates because it shows the combined affiliate viewership down considerably from a year ago. Chs. 2, 4 and 5 together experienced a loss of seven share points in the Nielsen numbers and nine share points in the Arbitron average.
That means that Utah viewers are following the national trend and spending more time with non-network programming alternatives. Independent station KSTU, for example, grew by two share points in both books. And cable penetration in Utah is at an all-time high.
Still, KUTV, KTVX and KSL can take heart in the large audiences that are being delivered in some of the key time periods. The three 10 o'clock news programs attract more than 80 percent of the viewing audience, and most of that audience sticks around for at least a half-hour after the news. Almost 75 percent of the audience is watching local TV from 6-7 p.m., and more Utah viewers watch network prime time programs - 75 percent, according to Nielsen - than do viewers nationally.
Looking at specific programs and time periods:
- KTVX has arrived as an early evening news power. According to Nielsen, more viewers watch Ch. 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast than watch either KUTV's or KSL's 6 p.m. shows, which are deadlocked three ratings points behind KTVX. (Arbitron gives KSL a slight win over KTVX in the early news, but I don't think we should count it since KSL refuses to acknowledge the Arbitron figures.)
- The late news battle goes to KSL in both books, with KUTV a solid second place. Third-place KTVX lost ground on the two dominant 10 o'clock news programs for the first time after several years of steady growth.
- KSL's late-night "M*A*S*H" continues to win the post-news time period, but it no longer dominates. KTVX's "Night Court" has surged past the "Tonight" show and is only two ratings points behind "M*A*S*H."
- KUTV's "Donahue" has doubled "Wil Shriner's" 4 p.m. ratings and controls the slot. That's probably a big reason why KSL and KTVX have decided to go with family fare in the hour - altruism notwithstanding.
- "Pat Sajak" is struggling. The late-night talk show is doing half the business for KSL that "Hawaii 5-0" did in the time period last year. It's even doing half of what "Inside Edition" is doing on KTVX at the same time.
- KTVX's game shows continue to dominate from 6-7 p.m. "PM Magazine" is holding steady in second place at 6:30 while KSL's "USA Today on TV" is a weak third and in danger of falling behind KSTU's "WKRP." In fact, Arbitron says "USA Today" is already in fourth place.
- The "NBC Nightly News" is getting clobbered at 5:30, falling into fourth place behind KSTU's "Silver Spoons." Which is why KUTV has announced that "Family Feud and "Nightly News" will switch places beginning Monday. They want to give Tom Brokaw a chance to take advantage of that big "Donahue" audience.
-FOR 23 YEARS KSL and Eugene Jelesnik have been celebrating LDS General Conference with variety specials aimed at providing wholesome entertainment for the entire family. This year will be no exception, as Jelesnik presents Utah Showtime (Sunday at 1 p.m., Ch. 5) with featured guests including Marianne Thompson (Miss Utah 1987), national talk show host (and Ogden native) Ray Briem, Olympic skating champions Torville and Dean, the Dance Dimension, 9-year-old cellist John Lund and Sterling Scholars music winner Michelle May.
It's an eclectic entertainment mix from a man who has made a career of finding and showcasing the best local talent. "The talent is out there if you look for it," Jelesnik said this week. "But the problem is, we have a generation growing up that has no idea what talent is. Any guy who picks up a guitar and learns four chords thinks he can go out and make a million dollars in a rock group."
But that's not Jelesnik's style. "I'm not saying that young people today aren't as talented as they used to be," he said. "It's just that with the music business being what it is today, the truly gifted youngster - the cellist or the dancer - doesn't have anyplace to show what he can do."
Except on KSL on conference Sunday. "I feel a sense of pride now in doing these shows," Jelesnik said. "We're giving talented people a chance to perform. That's the greatest gift you can give an artist." Or an audience.
-ALSO ON TV this weekend: KXIV will present a conference special of its own, a documentary by LDS lecturer Daniel Rona called Israel Revealed (Sunday at noon, Ch. 14). And the NCAA Basketball Tournament Semifinals will air Saturday on KSL, but because of Ch. 5's conference commitments the Duke-Seton Hall game will be joined in progress at 4 p.m. (Don't worry - with all the hoop-la that attends these Final Four games, you'll probably only miss the first couple of minutes.)