WKYT-27 has wrestled away the local news viewership lead from WLEX-18, according to the most closely watched measure of television viewing.
In the recently released May ratings book by Nielsen, the CBS affiliate won a majority of time slots, including the 6-7 a.m. newscast that the station hadn't won in more than a decade.
”I think it's still a competitive playing field, and there are still two distinct choices for people to make on news ...“ said WKYT general manager Wayne Martin. ”(But) it clearly indicates that what we're doing has both stability ... and now shows momentum also.“
The victory came as part of a gloomy report on viewership, however. Each station saw its household ratings slide in a majority of time slots. WLEX saw massive drops at certain hours, leading managers at the station to write off the book as a fluke.
”Those are huge (drops) for a very stable industry, and there's no explanation for them,“ said Tim Gilbert, general manager at the NBC affiliate. ”It's not only prime-time, but late news, early news, early morning. It's all over the place. ... To my mind, it puts the entire book in question.“
WKYT won five of the eight time slots for household ratings in the 40-county area surveyed by Nielsen. The company uses diaries, in which viewers record what they watch. Diaries are an often-criticized form of measurement, as it's questioned how accurately people fill them out.
The two stations tied in the 5-6 a.m. newscast and had a virtual dead heat at 6 p.m., where WLEX led by 0.1 ratings points. But the stations tied in share, which represents the percentage of households that are watching TV and tuned to that show.
WLEX, though, convincingly won the 11 p.m. time slot.
The station also continued to lead WKYT in viewership in Fayette and certain surrounding counties, as well as in desired advertising demographics.
But WKYT boasts that its performance in demographics has been improving.
The station said the ratings report shows the success of its investment in its morning news, which began around two years ago when it moved veteran anchors Barbara Bailey and Bill Bryant to that shift.
”My first comment when I learned about the book was "Good. What do we do to keep this going?'“ Bryant said.
ABC affiliate WTVQ-36, which has long been a distant third in ratings, saw significant drops during some newscasts.
General manager Chris Aldridge, who started at the station just recently, said he couldn't point to any one issue for the decline.
”One of my primary goals is to make the station more competitive in the news programming, in particular,“ he added.
Fox affiliate WDKY-56 also saw a rare decline in its flagship 10 p.m. news, which is produced by WKYT. Household ratings slipped more than a point, which general manager Michael Brickey attributed to the writers' strike having network programming ”out of whack.“
Since May, WLEX has conducted proprietary research it does every 18 months that suggested the book's viewership claims were anomalous, Gilbert said.
”We never get too happy when we have a great book or too sad when we have a bad book because we understand the holes in the methodology,“ Gilbert said. ”This is the like the picture of a shadow of a statue of a man.“