Evaluating ratings information impartially is always difficult. There are so many different ways to look at the numbers, and pretty much any station can make a case for why things have gone well for them and poorly for their competitors.

But this year's February sweeps pose a particular problem because of the Winter Olympics. When those numbers are factored in, things look pretty good for CBS-owned KUTV-Ch. 2. But it's a very different picture if those numbers are factored out.And the question is - should those numbers be factored in?

On the one hand, they're certainly valid. The Olympics are stunt programming, but does that make them any different from big miniseries or special episodes of regular series?

No.

On the other hand, the results from the sweeps are used by local stations to set advertising rates. And ad buyers are going to look askance at Olympics-inflated ratings.

Is anyone in his or her right mind going to assume that a station is going to be able to deliver the same ratings in March or April as it did in February when it aired the Olympics - particularly when there's a significant difference between that station's numbers on the days it broadcast the Games and the days it didn't?

No.

So, while not minimizing how well Ch. 2 did during the Olympics, it's also important not to make too much of it - those numbers have no lingering value.

LATE NEWS: KSL-Ch. 5 demonstrated its continuing strength at 10 p.m. by easily outdistancing its competitors whether the Olympics were in play or not. Overall, Ch. 5 averaged a 19.6 rating during the February sweeps in Monday-Friday late news - 7.2 rating points ahead of its nearest competitor.

(A rating point represents approximately 6,300 homes.)

Factoring out the Olympics, Ch. 5 averaged a 21.3 - 7.9 points ahead of its nearest competitor.

So who's No. 2? That depends entirely on whether you count the nights when the Olympics aired.

Overall, Ch. 2 (with an average 12.4 rating) beat KTVX-Ch. 4 (with an 11.8) at 10 p.m. But when you throw out the Olympics nights, Ch. 4 averaged a 12.3 to Ch. 2's 10.7.

The Games also made a big difference in KSTU-Ch. 13's 9 p.m. news numbers. The Fox News at Nine averaged 7.7 for the month, and that number rose to a 9.8 - the station's best ever and only one-tenth of a point behind Ch. 2 - without competition from the Olympics.

LATE NIGHT: How important is prime-time lead-in to the late-night ratings? Well, if this year's February sweeps are any indication, they are very important.

Simply put, when you factor in CBS's highly rated prime-time coverage of the Winter Olympics, the "Late Show with David Letter-man" finishes first, beating "The Tonight Show," "Nightline" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

When you factor out those Olympic ratings, the "Late Show" finishes fourth.

'Nuff said.

PRIME TIME: The results here are completely unsurprising - when the Olympics are factored in, CBS-owned Ch. 2 did significantly better than any of its competitors. When the Olympics are factored out, Ch. 2 dropped while ABC/Ch. 4, NBC/Ch. 5 and Fox/Ch. 13 each improved.

Looking at all four weeks of the sweeps, Ch. 2 averaged a 17.9 rating and a 29 share. Ch. 5 was second with an 11/17; Ch. 4 was third with a 9.9/16; and Ch. 13 fourth with an 8.6/14.

(A share point represents 1 percent of the homes in the Salt Lake television market that are actually watching TV at any one time.)

Looking only at non-Olympics nights, Ch. 5 moved into first place with a 14.6/23; Ch. 2 was second with a 12/19; Ch. 4 a close third with an 11/4/18 and Ch. 13 an improved fourth with a 9.9/16.

Oddly enough, KJZZ-Ch. 14 averaged a 4.9/8 in prime time whether you factored in the Olympics or not.

SIGN-ON TO SIGN-OFF: As always, these ratings don't mean a whole heck of a lot - but, in this case, they are yet another indication of how CBS's coverage of the Nagano Winter Games skewed the results during the February sweeps.

With the Olympics, Ch. 2 averaged a 7.3 rating and an 18 share. Without them, the station fell to a 5.5/15.

That's nearly a 25 percent difference - a rather significant change.

The other stations didn't see quite as much difference, but they did see change.

- Ch. 5 goes from a 6.3/18 with the Olympics to a 7.1/19 without.

- Ch. 4 goes from a 5.4/14 with the Olympics to a 6.3/17 without.

- Ch. 13 goes from a 4.4/11 with the Olympics to a 5/13 without.

- Ch. 14 goes from a 2.8/7 with the Olympics to a 2.9/8 without.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Local ratings results

LATE NEWSCASTS

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to a station's Monday-Friday late newscast (10 p.m. on Channels 2, 4 and 5; 9 p.m. on Ch. 13) during the February sweeps:

- Ch. 5: 123,000

- Ch. 2: 78,000

- Ch. 4: 74,000

- Ch. 13: 47,000

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to late newscasts when the Olympics are factored out:

- Ch. 5: 134,000

- Ch. 4: 84,000

- Ch. 2: 60,000

- Ch. 13: 59,000

LATE-NIGHT

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to the following shows during the February sweeps:

- Late Show with David Letterman: 49,000

- Tonight Show with Jay Leno: 48,000

- Nightline: 45,000

- Star Trek: The Next Generation: 37,000

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to the following shows during the February sweeps when the Olympics are factored out:

- Tonight Show with Jay Leno: 57,000

- Nightline: 49,000

- Star Trek: The Next Generation: 39,000

- Late Show with David Letterman: 38,000

PRIME TIME

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to the following stations in prime time during the February sweeps:

- Ch. 2 (CBS): 113,000

- Ch. 5 (NBC): 69,000

- Ch. 4 (ABC): 62,000

- Ch. 13 (Fox): 54,000

- Ch. 14 (UPN): 31,000

Here are the approximate average number of households that tuned in to the following stations in prime time during the February sweeps when the Olympics are factored out:

- Ch. 5 (NBC): 92,000

- Ch. 2 (CBS): 76,000

- Ch. 4 (ABC): 72,000

- Ch. 13 (Fox): 62,000

- Ch. 14 (UPN): 31,000