November sweeps aren’t quite what they used to be—at least in the top TV markets.
Thanks to Nielsen’s new local people meters (LPMs), currently operating in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, stations are bombarded daily with overnight demographic ratings—data previously available only during four-times-a-year sweeps. Of the top five markets, only Philadelphia remains on the old paper “diary” system. Next year, LPMs are heading there—as well as to Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit. But, for the 205 TV markets still on the diary system, sweeps determine local TV’s ad prices.
And sweeps remain a national fixation.
The networks load up prime time with fresh programming, theatricals and specials; stations ratchet up promotion and news stories. “We have a hybrid mentality,” says Emily Barr, president and GM of ABC O&O WLS Chicago. “We wanted to take advantage of what ABC was offering, and we’ve stepped things up slightly.”
In Boston, CBS O&O WBZ adopted a similar approach. “There is still a sweeps mentality at the networks. I put my best foot forward in those months,” says station President Julio Marenghi.
With November wrapped up, here’s a look at preliminary Nielsen data from the five largest television markets.
The NBC and ABC stations split key newscasts in this market. NBC’s flagship WNBC nabbed 11 p.m. with a 7.2/13 in households and 4.1/11 in 25-54s. ABC-owned WABC and CBS’ WCBS tied for second in the demo, each with a 3.3/9. With a little help from its Oprah ead-in, WABC won at 5 p.m. in households (HHs) (6.9/15) and adults 25-54 (3.0/14) and at 6 p.m. in HHs (6.9/14) and adults 25-54 (2.7/11). In prime time, New York delivered NBC’s only No. 1 finish in top markets in adults 25-54 with a 5.6/12.
Among English-language broadcasters, NBC-owned KNBC claimed the top spot in late news, but ABC O&O KABC won out in early evening. Weekdays at 11 p.m., KNBC registered a 3.2/12 in adults 25-54, while KABC and KCBS tied for second, each with a 2.2/8. KABC claimed the highest demo ratings for 4, 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts. In prime time, KABC eked out a win among English-language stations with a 3.7/10 in adults 25-54, followed by KNBC (3.4/9), KCBS (3.2/8) and Fox O&O KTTV (2.4/8).
With winning newscasts and a revived ABC prime time, ABC O&O WLS reigned as the dominant player. In November, It boasted the top-rated newscasts at 5 and 6 p.m. and late news. Its 10 p.m. newscast scored best, an average 12.2 rating/20 share in HHs and a 5.7/15 in adults 25-54, edging out NBC O&O WMAQ in households (9.6/16) and 25-54s (5.4/14). In prime, WLS commanded an 8.3/13 in households and a 5.0/13 in 25-54s, for more than a full-point lead over WMAQ and CBS-owned WBBM.
In the 11 p.m. news race, CBS O&O WBZ grabbed top marks in adults 25-54 (4.9 rating/16 share) and a second-place finish in households (6.9/15) behind NBC affiliate WHDH (7.8/17). WBZ recorded its best late-news demo ratings in 11 years. Thanks to CBS’ red-hot prime time, WBZ finished No. 1 in the market in prime in HHs (7.1 rating), adults 18- 49 (5.4) and adults 25-54 (7.1).
Without LPMs, Philadelphia stations still rely on the ratings book, which arrives in a few weeks, for demo data. On a household basis, ABC O&O WPVI won early and late news, but CBS-owned KYW is surging, moving to second place in 11 p.m. news from third in November 2003. At 6 p.m., WPVI notched a 14.0/23 and NBC-owned WCAU was second with a 6.2/10. At 11 p.m., WPVI nabbed an 11.6/19, while KYW recorded a 10.3/17. Prime time belonged to KYW with an 11.7/17.