Brace yourselves, fellow tubers. We're talking numbers today.
*THE HOUSE OF HITS was full of smiles on Tuesday as word came down that NBC has won the season ratings battle for the fourth consecutive year. Not that anyone there was worried that it wouldn't happen, mind you. It's just that the win was so impressive, with NBC defeating second place ABC by 24 percent, the largest margin of victory since CBS won by 26 percent back in 1956-57.NBC is also bragging about the fact that it won all 30 weeks of the season (the first time that's happened since CBS did it in 1963-64) and that "The Cosby Show" was the top-rated show for the fourth consecutive season (the third time that's happened, with "All In the Family" being the last show to pull off a four-year winning streak back in 1971-75).
The folks at NBC also want to point out that NBC's current dominance comes during an era when programmers are facing a "totally different programming environment."
"Ten years ago the average household had access to seven television channels," said the NBC spokesman who called me. "Today the average household has 25 different options. That's a major mushrooming in the marketplace. The networks continue to be leaders in that marketplace, but there's a lot more competition. The pie is being cut up into more pieces, and so it's that much more of an accomplishment when one network can continue to grab the biggest piece of the pie."
Don't you just love it when these network guys speak metaphorically?
-THAT LITTLE DIP you just felt was a slide by the Salt Lake City television market, which has dropped out of the national Top 40, according to Nielsen Media Research. We're now No. 41, with our 594,600 total households and 581,640 households with television.
No wonder we've all been feeling slightly less important lately.
What's even more interesting than that, however, is the growth of cable penetration in Utah. It was just a few years ago that the state flagged far behind the national average in cable TV viewership, with fewer than one-fourth of Utahns taking advantage of cable's diversity. That was at the height of local cable TV controversy, when many Utahns looked at cable the same way the Ayatollah looks at Salman Rushdie.
But evidently that controversy has blown over and local viewers are learning that there's no such thing as R-rated movies on basic cable. Local cable penetration is up to 42.3 percent, still a ways behind the national average (which is now up to about 55 percent) but way ahead of recent trends. Even premium cable subscriptions are up, with 24.8 percent of viewers actually inviting services like HBO, Showtime and Cinemax into their homes - R-rated movies and all.
Nielsen also indicates that 62.6 percent of us have VCRs in our homes, and that a lot of us probably used it to video tape CBS's "Lonesome Dove," far and away the most-watched program on local television during the February sweeps. (In fact, Utah viewers were even more tuned in to "Lonesome Dove" than were viewers throughout the nation. A whopping 63 percent of Utahns watching television Feb. 8 were watching the conclusion of the miniseries, as opposed to 41 percent of viewers nationally. Ol' Gus would've been proud.)
-PUBLIC TELEVISION doesn't worry as much about ratings as the commercial television industry does. But they do worry about fund-raising, and which programs help them to raise the most money. So it's interesting to look at KBYU's February pledge drive, which gives us an opportunity to compare ratings with dollars.
For example, the most-watched program during the drive was the live telecast of the BYU-Wyoming basketball game from Laramie. But while more than twice as many people watched that game than watched almost anything else on KBYU that month, viewers only donated $2,684 during the game - about one-third of what was donated during a single hour of "Lawrence Welk."
You don't think the fact that the Cougars didn't play very well and lost the game had anything to do with that, do you?
"Anne of Green Gables" viewers, on the other hand, were far more generous, donating $44,000 during showings of the original miniseries and an additional $28,000 during the run of the sequel miniseries. Other big money makers for KBYU were "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" ($25,276), "Lawrence Welk: TV's Music Man" ($11,855) and "Yours, Mine and Ours" ($9,919).
At the other end of the fund-raising spectrum was KBYU's evening of Disney Channel programming. There weren't many viewers, and those who did watch obviously didn't feel much like donating money to Ch. 11 for "DTV" ($229), "Too Smart for Strangers" ($304) and "Disney Family Album" ($504).