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Fox4/NBC5 skate to local newscast golds in Olympics-skewed February "sweeps"

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
As they do every four years, NBC’s prime-time Winter Olympics packages threw a Triple Lutz into the 10 p.m. competitions during the latest four-week February “sweeps.”

All 20 weekdays are in the books, with NBC5’s late night local newscasts pushed back a half-hour on half of those nights while Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 had to go directly against the closing half-hour of the Peacock’s Olympic packages.

So here’s the deal. Nielsen allows a newscast to be counted in the final tally if it “touches” a quarter-hour of the regularly scheduled edition. And NBC5 did just that on 10 weeknights with 10:30 p.m. start-ups following substantial lead-in audiences from the ratings-rich Olympics.

On each of those nights, late-starting NBC5 had more total viewers at 10:30 p.m. than any of its three competitors did at 10 p.m. On nine of those 10 nights, NBC5 also won among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. (Fox4 nipped the Peacock in this key measurement on the night of Thursday, Feb. 20th.)

Here’s how it looked on those nights when all four competitors started their newscasts at 10 p.m. In total viewers, WFAA8 paced the field with five wins. CBS11 had two and Fox4, one. NBC5 ran first only on those nights -- Feb. 6th and 21st -- when NBC closed out its prime-time Olympics package at 10 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m.

Among 25-to-54-year-olds, NBC5 led the way with four outright wins while also tying WFAA8 for first-place on Feb. 21st. WFAA8 had two outright wins and Fox4 had three.

Nonetheless, NBC5 can run promotions touting itself as the home of D-FW’s most-watched 10 p.m. newscasts during the February sweeps. Those are the rules, even if such claims are misleading.

NBC also fared well in other sweeps results, though. The station won at both 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers and tied with Fox4 for the most 25-to-54-year-olds at 6 p.m.

Fox4 otherwise dominated the 6 a.m. competitions and also took the 5 p.m. top spot in the 25-to-54 demographic. That left WFAA8 and CBS11 out in the cold.

OK, here are the official results that will be reflected in Nielsen Media Research data. For the late night wars, they include the mix of 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. newscasts on NBC5 and only the 10 p.m. editions on Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11. For that reason, year-to-year plusses and minuses won’t be included in this portion of the final numbers. Simply put, they’re basically meaningless. But year-to-year ups and downs will be shown in parentheses for the 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. results.

10 P.M.

Total Viewers
NBC5 -- 234,343
WFAA8 -- 198,836
Fox4 -- 163,330
CBS11 -- 156,229

NBC5 -- 124,923
Fox4 -- 91,407
WFAA8 -- 82,266
CBS11 -- 48,750

6 A.M.

Total Viewers
Fox4 -- 163,330 (plus 50,842)
NBC5 -- 120,722 (plus 46,923)
WFAA8 -- 85,216 (plus 1,711)
CBS11 -- 71,013 (plus 13,117)

Fox4 -- 91,407 (plus 19,861)
NBC5 -- 57,891 (plus 13,473)
WFAA8 -- 51,973 (plus 7,584)
CBS11 -- 30,469 (plus 5,279)

Comments: An unusual amount of early morning cold and/or perilous weather helped to inflate all four stations’ totals over last February’s. But Fox4 still rules this roost with an iron fist, with no rival station ever seriously in contention throughout February. WFAA8, which lost considerable ground to CBS11 in the total viewers measurement, will go into May with a yet to be named replacement for co-anchor Cynthia Izaguirre, who’s moving to the station’s 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts on March 10th. Changes in anchor teams usually generate viewer movement, so WFAA8 needs to choose wisely.

6 P.M.

Total Viewers
NBC5 -- 177,533 (plus 53,482)
CBS11 -- 156,229 (minus 10,024)
WFAA8 -- 149,127 (minus 8,383)
Fox4 -- 134,925 (plus 26,774)

Fox4/NBC5 -- 60,938 each (plus 3,284/plus 19,411)
WFAA8 -- 57,891 (plus 4,976)
CBS11 -- 24,375 (minus 4,601)

Comments: Leading into special 6:30 p.m. Olympic Zone programming certainly didn’t hurt NBC5’s 6 p.m. prospects. Still, the station vaulted from third to first place in both ratings measurements while also showing the biggest viewer gains by far. Will there be an afterglow in the May “sweeps?” We’ll see.

CBS11 took the biggest falls, losing last February’s top spot in total viewers while basically fading out of the picture with 25-to-54-year-olds. The station’s overall performance in that key demographic is getting worse of late at 6 p.m.. And it was never that strong to begin with.

5 P.M.

Total Viewers
NBC5 -- 142,026 (plus 17,491)
Fox4 -- 120,722 (plus 6,307)
WFAA8 -- 106,520 (minus 19,874)
CBS11 -- 85,216 (minus 1,938)

Fox4 -- 54,844 (plus 8,548)
NBC5 -- 42,657 (plus 7,122)
WFAA8 -- 36,563 (minus 2,817)
CBS11 -- 27,422 (plus 7,627)

Comments: WFAA8’s 5 p.m. newscasts are paying the price for a still struggling 4 p.m. local edition, which was launched last fall and ran fourth in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds in this latest sweeps period. In response, the station is moving Shelly Slater to the 4 p.m. program and making her the sole anchor in place of Jason Wheeler and Colleen Coyle.

NBC5 dethroned WFAA8 as last year’s 5 p.m. champ in total viewers after narrowly losing a year ago. Fox4 repeated as the 25-to-54 champ while WFAA8 slipped from second to third.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net