With no Winter Olympics bringing in extra viewers like last year, many local television newscasts saw viewership declines in February.
The recently released Nielsen ratings book for Lexington showed the number of households watching television declined throughout seven of the eight competitive newscast time periods. The year-over-year percentage changes in overall viewership ranged from growth of 4 percent from 6-7 a.m. to a drop as high as 19 percent at 11 p.m.
"Absolutely, it was the Olympics," said Pat Dalbey, general manager of NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18). "When you come off of an Olympics (ratings) book and go back to normal viewing patterns, it's always going to feel pretty different."
Despite the lower total viewership during almost all newscast time periods, the story remained much the same. WLEX and rival CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27) split victories, each winning four of the competitive time slots in household ratings. WLEX won at 5-6 a.m., 6-7 a.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., while WKYT won at noon, 12:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. WLEX outpaced WKYT in the majority of advertiser-favored age groups.
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"I think 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. really are strong examples of how it's really a neck-and-neck race between us and WLEX," said WKYT news director Robert Thomas.
WKYT's 6 a.m. news saw strong growth, up more than 30 percent from last year.
"And while there were some decreases in the overall number of people watching television, we were very pleased with the fact that we did an outstanding job of retaining viewers we gained over the past year," Thomas said.
WLEX's new 4 p.m. newscast nearly beat Oprah Winfrey's talk show in household ratings and did prevail in certain demographics.
"It's an indication that there's certainly a news audience at that time period," Dalbey said. And with Oprah's show ending this year, "we'll have another chance to grow even faster," he added. WKYT has opted to run a talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper in that time slot later this year.
WLEX's new 7 p.m. newscast didn't score as high as the programming at that time last year, but it did capture a larger percentage of people watching TV at that time than it did in November.
ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36) saw flat to declining newscast ratings throughout the day, but news director Doug Hogan said "we feel we have the right teams in place in the morning and evenings for quality news coverage."
WDKY saw a decline in ratings for its 10 p.m. news, too, but did see strong growth for its 7 a.m. show.
"A tremendous amount of our viewers come from outside the metro (area)," General Manager Michael Brickey said. "We love this."