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Helmut Schmidt, Published June 30 2012

WDAY back on top in Nielsen ratings

FARGO – The outlook was a little more summery last week at WDAY-TV.

The May Nielsen ratings “book” is out, and the station’s news broadcasts rebounded from taking a ratings hit in February, grabbing back viewer eyeballs from competitors.

“Historically, we’ve been No. 1, and this book is pretty good as far as maintaining where things are at,” said WDAY News Director Jeff Nelson.

In November, the WDAY 6 p.m. newscast pulled in 32,000 households, or roughly 43,000 adults. That dipped to 30,000 households and 36,000 adults in the February ratings period.

WDAY numbers include WDAZ in the Grand Forks area as part of the 35-county broadcast market.

Meanwhile, KVLY surged during the 6 o’clock time slot. In November, the KVLY crew drew 23,000 households and 29,000 adult viewers, but jumped to 33,000 households and 49,000 adult viewers in February.

That virtually flipped in May.

WDAY grabbed 35,000 households and 47,000 adult viewers at 6 p.m., while KVLY dipped to 18,000 households and 25,000 adult viewers.

The folks at FOX got a surprise in May. After cruising along at 6,000 households and 9,000 adult viewers in November and February, their 6 p.m. broadcast dipped to 2,000 households and 2,000 adult views in May.

FOX News Director Jim Shaw said he’ll look at the ratings over a year or two to determine any trends.

FOX has held strong on its 9 p.m. broadcasts.

In November, FOX pulled 20,000 households and 26,000 adult viewers, and in February, 20,000 households and 30,000 adult viewers. May saw a dip to 16,000 households and 20,000 adult viewers, the Nielsen report shows.

The February ratings were the best-ever for the 9 p.m. newscast, Shaw said.

“They were just awesome. Just tremendous,” Shaw said.

February also saw a hiccup during the 10 p.m. newscast for WDAY.

At 10, WDAY attracted 41,000 households and 55,000 adult viewers in November, then sagged to 32,000 households and 41,000 adult viewers in February, before rebounding to 38,000 households and 49,000 adult viewers in May.

Meanwhile, the KVLY/KXJB 10 p.m. news simulcast saw little change over that span.

KVLY/KXJB’s 10 p.m. newscast attracted 30,000 households and 39,000 adult viewers in November; 31,000 households and 43,000 adult viewers in February; and 28,000 households and 39,000 adult viewers in May. KVLY pulls about two-thirds of the viewers for the simultaneously aired newscast.

Ratings at any time are important, because those are the numbers stations use to set advertising rates.

And even though there’s another set of Nielsen ratings based on July viewing, the May book occupies an important position in the ad world, said Jon Clites, WDAY’s regional sales manager.

“May is probably the most important book of the year, because it’s used all the way up to Christmas,” Clites said.

Shaw, however, puts more stock in the February and November Nielsen books, noting that is when people do most of their TV watching.

Jim Wareham, president and general manager of KVLY/KXJB, said the area’s Nielsen ratings have been suspect as far as reliability. He said he didn’t think WDAY’s February numbers were as low as the Nielsen ratings made them appear.

“To me, we found it very suspicious” because the station has always been strong, Wareham said.

In fact, for the most recent go-around, Wareham said the Nielsens didn’t have enough diaries to guarantee their statistical and mathematical models would be valid.

Wareham said he’d like viewers to be tracked electronically, as is done in some areas, rather than rely solely on the 1950s-era style diary system as is done locally.

Nelson said he expects WDAY to hold its ratings lead, thanks to an experienced staff, high-tech weather forecasting systems and high-definition broadcast.

“We’re giving the viewers what they want to see,” Nelson said.

Meanwhile, Wareham and Shaw say their crews are ready to give as good as they take.

“We’re quite pleased with our numbers; we’re pleased to be competitive,” Shaw said.

“Our morning news is No. 1 news. We’re very competitive with WDAY in the afternoon and evening newscasts,” Wareham said.

“We’re in a good news environment in the marketplace. Two strong competitors going after each other,” Wareham said.

WDAY, like The Forum, is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583