CBS Scandal, Local Fallout
Evening News: ratings swing, but ads hold
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/16/2005 7:00:00 PM
After CBS aired its infamous 60 Minutes Wednesday report questioning President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, WKRC Cincinnati Vice President and General Manager Chris Sehring was deluged by thousands of e-mails. Last week, after an independent investigation resulted in four CBS News employees losing their jobs, Sehring's inbox was relatively quiet.
“It didn't get as much reaction as I would have thought,” he says.
Since the firestorm that followed last September's broadcast, many CBS station GMs have been bombarded by viewer complaints and protests from organized campaigns. Once the four-month investigation was made public Jan. 10, local station execs seemed satisfied, particularly by the network's new reporting guidelines. “CBS delivered on its promise to be tough and thorough,” says Henry Maldonado, VP/GM of Post-Newsweek's WKMG Orlando, Fla. (CBS alerted stations about a half-hour before it posted the report on CBS News' Web site.)
Doreen Wade, head of the CBS affiliate board and president of Freedom Broadcasting, says “CBS took the findings to heart. They resolved to have better precautionary measures in place for the future. I think CBS News will be a stronger organization.”
But locally, stations are evaluating how the scandal has impacted them.
One tangible effect: In many markets, CBS Evening News ratings slipped during November sweeps, compared to 2003. Clear Channel-owned WKRC, a CBS affiliate, saw its Evening News marks fall 9% to a 6.8 HH rating/12 share, according to Nielsen. “Many people have the misconception that somehow Dan Rather is operating out of our Cincinnati studios,” says Sehring. “It stung a little bit. Hopefully, those people will come back.”
Out of 56 metered markets, 38 reported drops in Evening News ratings in November. (One market, Tulsa, Okla., was not metered in 2003.) Of course, other factors, like lead-in programming and a station's overall strength, can affect ratings. But many CBS stations are seeing improved marks for local newscasts, and the network is No. 1 in prime time. It isn't an issue of red states and blue states, either: New Orleans, La., Tulsa, Okla., Dayton, Ohio, Greensboro, N.C. and Raleigh/Durham, N.C., all in states President Bush won in the election, were the five highest-rated Evening News markets in November.
In Kansas City, Mo., another red state, Evening News is actually thriving. In November, the newscast surged 24% to a 7.7 rating/13 share. It fits with KCTV's overall growth across dayparts. In November, for the first time in 13 years, the station won 10 p.m. news. Still, says VP/GM Kirk Black, the report yields valuable reminders for newsrooms. “It doesn't matter if you are working on Evening News or the KCTV 6 p.m. news. There are no shortcuts,” says Black, a member of the affiliate board.
Advertiser backlash hasn't been a major problem. Stations typically have only one local spot to sell during Evening News; their clients are already distanced from the story. Still, some e-mail protesters did target station advertisers. In Orlando, Maldonado says he heard from a few advertisers, but hasn't lost any business. It might have been more of a leverage tactic. Says Maldonado: “They wanted to make sure they had my attention.”
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more