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TEGNA8 topples at 10 p.m. but regains the top spots at 6 p.m. while rival stations also notch first place finishes in February 2016 newscast sweeps

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
That oak tree falling at 10 p.m. is TEGNA8.

In final results for the February “sweeps” ratings period, the ABC affiliate was dethroned by CBS11 at that hour as the overall newscast king while dropping to third place for the first time in recent memory among 25-to-54-year-old viewers, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. TEGNA8 ran first in both ratings measurements a year ago.

Fox4 took the late night 25-to-54 crown for the third straight “sweeps” period while also cruising to twin wins at 6 a.m. As in November, the station won all 20 weekdays in both ratings measurements.

TEGNA8 had better news at 6 p.m., where it barely held off strong challenges by NBC5 to win with both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. The station had placed second in the February 2015 sweeps.

NBC5 remained in good shape at 5 p.m. with a pair of wins. The Peacock likewise ran first in both measurements a year ago.

A relatively balmy February came and went without any significant “weather events,” which didn’t help any of the stations’ overall year-to-year ratings pictures. Last February brought a “thunder sleet”-spiked “arctic blast” in the closing week of the sweeps. And those are always good for ratings bump-ups. Still, some of the year-to-year plunges documented below aren’t all due to weather issues.

Here are the complete results in the two major Nielsen ratings food groups for the February 2016 sweeps, which ended Wednesday. Year-to-year viewer downs and ups are in parentheses. As always, we’re extending the numbers to three decimal points (.000) to break ties in some very close races.

10 P.M.

Total Viewers
CBS11 -- 173,731 (minus 8,379)
TEGNA8 -- 163,816 (minus 65,714)
NBC5 -- 149,014 (minus 896)
Fox4 -- 121,676 (minus 31,304)

Fox4 -- 62,592 (minus 22,158)
NBC5 -- 56,996 (minus 10,884)
TEGNA8 -- 56,341 (minus 35,469)
CBS11 -- 41,341 (minus 2,779)

Comments: In fairness to TEGNA8, it by far inherited the worst 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in audiences from the staggering ABC network. The station consistently built on those meager numbers, but on most nights couldn’t climb all the way up the mountain to a first place finish. Still, the year-to-year audience drop-offs for TEGNA8 are startling, particularly in the total viewers measurement. A decrease of 65,714 viewers amounts to almost a full rating point.

CBS11 received the biggest lead-in bangs from its network and on average held the bulk of that audience for its 10 p.m. newscasts. Fox4’s win with 25-to-54-year-olds is particularly impressive from this standpoint. More than half of its total audience was in this key demographic, allowing Fox4 to go from worst to first. In contrast, CBS11 went from first to worst, with less than one-quarter of its viewership in the key 25-to-54 demographic. A slight saving grace: CBS11’s year-to-year losses among 25-to-54-year-olds were the least of the four stations and less than one-twelfth the number of viewers hemorrhaged by TEGNA8.

6 A.M.

Total Viewers
Fox4 -- 135,557 (plus 28,757)
NBC5 -- 77,340 (minus 9,650)
TEGNA8 -- 61,900 (minus 32,510)
CBS11 -- 46,815 (minus 10,645)

Fox4 -- 62,830 (plus 6,530)
NBC5 -- 39,704 (plus 4,044)
TEGNA8 -- 22,412 (minus 9,608)
CBS11 -- 17,917 (minus 11,293)

Comments: Charitably put, this is a blowout. Fox4 was never threatened by any of its rivals and is also the only station to show year-to-year increases in both ratings barometers. It drew 58,217 more total viewers than runner-up NBC5 compared to just a 12,390 margin over second place TEGNA8 in February 2015. Fox4’s Good Day also won from 7 to 9 a.m. opposite the network morning shows on ABC, CBS and NBC. That’s a lot of local ad revenue pouring in while rival stations get only a small window of local commercial time per hour.

TEGNA8 sharply regressed in both races, but not enough to fall behind CBS11. It’s been said before in these spaces but bears repeating. CBS11 had genuine momentum among 25-to-54-year-olds a year ago and in the May sweeps ran third in that measurement for the first time in its history, beating TEGNA8. But new news director Mike Garber decided to make his mark by breaking up that team, dumping traffic anchor Tammy Dombeck and sending co-anchor Jason Allen back to the reporting pool in favor of newcomers Russ McCaskey and traffic reporter Chelsey Davis. Despite very heavy promotion during the past month, the results continue to be essentially disastrous. Sometimes it’s the moves you don’t make.

Over at TEGNA8, news director Carolyn Mungo has tinkered with the 6 to 7 a.m. Daybreak format to no avail at all. Instead the program for the most part has regressed. Interestingly, though, the more conversational, national news-driven 5:30 to 6 a.m. portion of Daybreak ran a solid second in both measurements during that half-hour, behind only Fox4. But the key 6 to 7 a.m. portion of Daybreak then remained stagnant in the ratings while Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all increased their audiences. Make of it what you will. But don’t expect either Garber or Mungo to tell their staffs, “I blew it.” Except on rare occasions, that’s just not in the basic news director DNA.

6 P.M.

Total Viewers
TEGNA8 -- 141,648 (minus 22,482)
NBC5 -- 139,311 (minus 17,179)
CBS11 -- 135,911 (minus 42,909)
Fox4 -- 110,202 (minus 7,018)

TEGNA8 -- 47,115 (minus 1,865)
NBC5 -- 44,853 (minus 7,977)
Fox4 -- 30,334 (minus 22,496)
CBS11 -- 27,947 (minus 12,093)

Comments: Across the board losses by all four stations make the TEGNA8 victories here somewhat hollow. CBS11, which ran first in total viewers a year ago, cliff-dove into third place and lost 42,909 viewers en route. Still, the race among the top 3 was very close, with TEGNA8 prevailing by a slim margin despite dropping 22,482 viewers year-to-year.

Among 25-to-54-year-olds, Fox4 easily bled the most viewers after finishing first in February 2015. First-place TEGNA8 can take heart from its minimal losses within this key age group. But is anybody happy? Not really.

5 P.M.

Total Viewers
NBC5 -- 137,186 (minus 2,074)
Fox4 -- 112,893 (minus 10,957)
TEGNA8 -- 101,916 (minus 24,694)
CBS11 -- 93,488 (minus 24,022)

NBC5 -- 34,644 (minus 9,316)
Fox4 -- 31,073 (minus 10,237)
TEGNA8 -- 29,555 (minus 2,395)
CBS11 -- 20,507 (minus 10,093)

Comments: -- NBC5, the first station to get into the 4 p.m. news game, continues to win that hour and feed the biggest lead-in audiences to its 5 p.m. edition. So the station deserves credit for making its own bed and nestling comfortably in it.

TEGNA8, which followed NBC5 and then CBS11 into the 4 p.m. newscast arena, remains the third-place finisher in both ratings measurements. Its 5 p.m. newscasts suffer as a result, although CBS11’s are faring even worse despite having the second most-watched 4 p.m. newscast.

All in all, this was a snow-and-ice storm-free February in which just two stations -- Fox4 and NBC5 -- showed any year-to-year increases. Those were in the 6 a.m. competitions. Otherwise, all four stations were down from February 2015 at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. And some of those decreases are eye-popping

What to do? Well, that’s their problem. Perhaps a lot less pandering to “viral” video and “social media” would help. Joe Bob from Sunnyvale may have something to say on Facebook or Twitter. But do newscasts really need his opinions? Unfortunately, that’s a rhetorical question because they can’t seem to help themselves anymore. Nor is the viewing experience enhanced by the “Look at this!” sights of a bear eating a cupcake or a human playing a banjo with his buck teeth.

From this perspective, one would like to think that solid, unadorned, original content will always be the key to longterm success. TEGNA8 used to thrive in that respect. But in the latest sweeps, the station finished in third place a majority of the time while CBS11 ran last in six of the eight competitions.

The D-FW market still has higher quality newscasts than most. But their audiences keep fading out -- year after year after year. At this point, is it possible to get them back by means other than severe weather outbreaks? That’s not a rhetorical question. But it certainly is a daunting one.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net