The first ratings information is in for the new 4 and 7 p.m. newscasts produced by Lexington's NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18), and the results are mixed.
At 7 p.m., the station saw household ratings grow 15 percent compared to a year earlier when it aired Inside Edition in the time slot. But at 4 p.m., the news expansion scored ratings almost 20 percent less than Ellen a year earlier.
Moved to 2 p.m., Ellen also drew lower ratings at that time slot, "but we expected that it would until the audience finds it in the new time slot," said WLEX General Manager Pat Dalbey.
Overall, the station was "extremely happy" with the newscasts' performance, said News Director Bruce Carter.
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It was a strong ratings period for the station, which tied CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27) with four wins each in household ratings in competitive newscast time slots. WLEX won at 5-6 a.m., 6-7 a.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. WKYT won noon, 12:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. WLEX outpaced WKYT in the majority of advertiser-favored age groups.
The year-over-year growth of those demographics for WLEX at 7 p.m. was even higher than the household ratings growth at the time slot that is now local news.
"The 7 p.m. was a clear win in terms of the ratings that we got," Carter said. "Four o'clock is a very different place to put a newscast. But out of the box, we were hoping for a 3 rating, and that's exactly what we got. ...
"This is a great place to start, and we'll build upon it."
From the start, the newscasts have performed well compared to those in other markets. The 7 p.m. newscast ranked 12th of 61 nationally while the 4 p.m. newscast placed 23rd of 68 in household ratings, according to Nielsen data.
While there had been potential that WLEX might get competition at 4 p.m. from WKYT, it appears it won't happen this year. The CBS affiliate has signed a one-year contract to air a talk show by Anderson Cooper in the time slot, which has long been home to Oprah Winfrey and her show that ends this fall.
WKYT programming executive Barbara Howard said a news component to Cooper's show, along with his news background and name recognition, made it a good purchase.
But that might not have been the only option for expanded local news at WKYT.
"We're still in the process of discussing the expansion of our news offering in 2011," said WKYT News Director Robert Thomas, who declined to elaborate.
WKYT saw household ratings grow for newscasts across the full day except at 11 p.m. It was growth that was significantly higher than rival WLEX's in time slots including 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. WLEX also saw growth at all time slots except 5-6 a.m.
WKYT's Thomas said he thinks several factors helped the CBS affiliate post the strong rise in ratings. Among those was the station's switch in September from a VHF signal to UHF to alleviate reported viewership problems.
"Correcting that certainly helped us," he said. "But that's just one of the factors."
He also pointed to the station's morning team of Bill Bryant and Stacy Ellison, who have been together since 2009.
Fox affiliate WDKY (Channel 56) saw its 10 p.m. news continue to perform well with household ratings growing, though its 7 a.m. news offering saw ratings dip slightly. General Manager Michael Brickey said the 10 p.m. show continued to be the top 10 p.m. Fox newscast in the country.
ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36) continued to distantly trail the leaders and saw ratings dip some at most time slots, though it did see a significant rise in the morning.
"We put a lot of emphasis on Good Morning Kentucky in November," said General Manager Chris Aldridge. "We changed not only the anchors but the format of the show to make it faster paced. We were very pleased."