In what can only be termed an atypical February sweeps, KSL-Ch. 5 won the late-news battle by not losing; KSTU-Ch. 13 won with a bit of singing; KUTV-Ch. 2 took a big hit; and KTVX-Ch. 4 continued its losing streak.

In February, the networks were feeling the effects of the Hollywood writers' strike. And local stations were somewhat up in the air when it came to their news ratings.

In the end, the order of finish was familiar — Ch. 5 in first; Ch. 2 in second; Ch. 13 in third; and Ch. 4 in fourth. But there's a bit more to the story.

• KSL-Ch. 5 equaled its Monday-Friday 10 p.m. performance from February 2007 with a 14.8 rating and a 27 share.

(A rating point represents 1 percent of the 874,650 households in the Salt Lake TV market. A share point represents 1 percent of the homes where TV is being watched at any one time.)

KSL's numbers are significant not only because of the strike situation but because February marked the first sweeps since longtime anchorman Dick Nourse retired. With longtime anchorman Bruce Lindsay taking over at 10 p.m., the newscast didn't miss a beat.

Ch. 5 actually lengthened its lead from a 23 percent ratings advantage over second-place Ch. 2 in February 2007 (Monday-Friday) to a 35 percent advantage over second-place Ch. 2 in February 2007. But that, obviously, had more to do with Ch. 2 than it did with Ch. 5.

• KUTV-Ch. 2 took that big hit, dropping from an 11.4 rating/20 share in February 2007 to a 9.6/17 in February 2008 — a ratings decline of 16 percent.

Why? Could it have been that this was Ch. 2's first sweeps since longtime anchorwoman Michelle King retired? It certainly had something to do with CBS's struggles in prime time during February. And it's not hard to figure the success of Fox played a part.

• KSTU-Ch. 13's 9 p.m. newscast had what can only be termed a fantastic February, jumping 17 percent in the ratings, from an 8.1/13 in 2007 to a 9.5/17 in 2008.

Why? Well, there's this little Fox show called "American Idol," which decimated the competition in prime time. And prime-time ratings directly affect late-news ratings.

Ch. 13's Monday-Friday 9.5 average rating was within a tenth of a rating point of Ch. 2's 9.6 average — an unprecedented position for the local Fox station since it began airing local news in 1991.

To understand how much "American Idol" influenced the local late-news ratings in February, all you have to do is compare five-day and seven-day averages. When you add in Saturdays and Sundays — when there was no "American Idol" — KSTU's average rating falls from a 9.5 to an 8.9. (Ch. 2 holds steady at a 9.6.)

And "Idol" didn't help the KUTV-produced newscast that airs at 9 p.m. on KJZZ-Ch. 14. It dropped from a 3.3 ratings in February 2007 to a 2.1 this year.

• KTVX-Ch. 4 continued to struggle at 10 p.m. The fourth-place newscast lost ground from a year ago, falling 17 percent from a 5.3 rating/9 share to a 4.4/8.

The ratings for Ch. 4's flagship newscast are about 54 percent less than both third-place Ch. 13 and second-place Ch. 2 and 69 percent less than first-place Ch. 5.

February sweeps

The approximate average number of households tuned in to late newscasts (Monday-Friday):

KSL-Ch. 5: 129,000

KUTV-Ch. 2: 84,000

KSTU-Ch. 13: 83,000

KTVX-Ch. 4: 38,000

KJZZ-Ch. 14: 18,000

And the seven-day averages (Sunday-Saturday):

KSL-Ch. 5: 125,000

KUTV-Ch. 2: 84,000

KSTU-Ch. 13: 78,000

KTVX-Ch. 4: 40,000

KJZZ-Ch. 14: 21,000