Michael Deeds: New year, new local TV news hierarchy? Um, no.

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comJanuary 5, 2014 

Go ahead and read that headline out loud to yourself. Let’s get 2014 started with a good laugh, OK?

Every year about this time, I take a look at local TV news stations to see if anything has changed. Dee Sarton and Carolyn Holly are still smiling away at Channel 7 — check. Ron Burgundy’s doing sports at Channel 6 — uh, check.

And every year when I look at the most recent Nielsen sweeps ratings — November 2013 this time around — KTVB wins. There’s no stopping the big dog and its marketing budget. Other stations are left sniffing around under the table for leftovers.

With a rating of 9.1, Channel 7’s weekday 10 p.m. program was by far the most popular newscast among viewers 18 and older in the Boise market. (Based on our population, one rating point equals 5,200 adults 18 and older.) The closest non-KTVB news program was KIVI Channel 6’s 5:30 p.m. Sunday newscast with a 4.3.

This sweeps period was basically status quo overall among the local news stations. But here are a few nuggets of information from that time period that will be interesting to TV junkies:

- Local news shows launched toward the end of 2013 came out of the gate with a whimper.

KBOI Channel 2’s weekday 11 a.m. newscast landed a bellyflopping 0.5 — or, in theory, 2,600 viewers.

KTVB’s new 4 p.m. newscast pulled a 1.5 rating. The lone competing news program in that slot was KBOI’s, which pulled a 2.0.

But Doug Armstrong, KTVB’s president and general manager, likes the momentum of Sarton and Holly at 4 p.m. Ratings got stronger as the month went on. He expects numbers to improve “substantially” in February, the next sweeps period: “What I can say is that by the end of November, KTVB had an audience that outsized any other program at 4 p.m. by a ratio of 3 to 2.”

- KIVI/KNIN sports director Paul Gerke’s viral Burgundy impersonation on Halloween was fun — but any ratings effect for Channel 6 was minimal, says Marie McGlynn, vice president and general manager at Journal Broadcast Group of Boise.

The station’s 6 p.m. news rating was up year to year (2.0 from 1.7). Its 10 p.m. newscast dipped from 2.5 to 2.3. “Although our share was up at 10,” she adds good-naturedly. “Who knows?”

(“Share” is different from “rating.” Share is the percentage of TVs in use that are tuned to a particular program.)

- Speaking of 10 p.m., KBOI Channel 2’s weekday newscast trended up a smidge to a 3.4 rating.

- Homes using television (HUT) in the Boise area was down, notably weekdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m. So, unsurprisingly, a few of KTVB’s top-rated news program numbers decreased. For example, the weekday 5 p.m. news went from an 8.9 rating in 2012 to a 6.3 in 2013.

This has caused no panic. First of all, HUT data is gathered from about 450 diaries. Nielsen relies on people to write down what they’re watching every day. Good luck with accuracy. Fluctuation is common.

Second, Armstrong says, we should expect a bounce in February. “In five weeks,” he says, “you’ll see an amazing increase in HUTs during the Olympics, which delivers large audience patterns similar to the Super Bowl.”

Like all media, TV news faces a landscape of increasingly splintered viewers. Savvy media will continue to beef up website content, add features for smartphone and tablet users and become as 21st century-friendly as possible.

The one exception? HD, apparently. None of the Treasure Valley’s TV stations seem to be in any hurry to start offering local newscasts in HD.

I guess that sort of visual detail would make it easier for us to tell that those Burgundy mustaches are fake. And history proves that viewers won’t tolerate anything phony about their news anchors, right?

IN SCENE JAN. 10

- A new music series featuring touring acts is slated to debut at the intimate Sapphire Room in Boise.

- The first Idaho Laugh Festival prepares to take over Boise with comedy.

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River (but not this weekend) and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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