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CBS11 wins the 10 p.m. big tunas, with Fox4 and NBC5 also claiming some top spots in extraordinarily close February "sweeps"

Airtight battles abounded in the four-week February "sweeps," with only CBS11 and Fox4 recording relatively decisive wins in the four major local news arenas.

CBS11 ran first in total viewers at 10 p.m., beating runner-up WFAA8 by its largest margin ever. And Fox4 controlled both the 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. races among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

A number of races required taking the final Nielsen rating to an extra decimal point in much the same way Major League baseball batting average winners are decided.

At 5 p.m., for instance, NBC5 beat Fox4 by a 1.81 to 1.77 margin in total viewers while the Peacock took the 25-to-54 race in that time period by a score of 1.53 to 1.46 over Fox4.

The 10 p.m. final in the key 25-to-54 demographic was a down-to-the-nub three-way race. CBS11 emerged victorious with a 2.72 rating, followed by WFAA8 (2.67) and NBC5 (2.62).

WFAA8 emerged without any wins for the first time in recent memory. But the ABC station was close enough to call it a first place tie by rounding off the results in both the 6 p.m. total viewers race and the 10 p.m. battle for 25-to-54-year-olds. Still, this is a station that used to dominate. No more. Not anywhere.

Each full rating point equals 67,741 total viewers and 30,093 viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic. As noted in an earlier post, those are deflated totals from the previous February, when the respective values were 69,257 and 31,067 viewers.

Local stations around the country for years had benefited from annual ratings inflations. So it was a body blow when the new estimates were released last September. Stations now need to achieve a slightly higher rating to get the same viewer totals. This reality will be reflected in the year-to-year plusses and minuses listed below.

Here are the final Nielsen results for the February 2012 sweeps, which ended on Wednesday. All results are based on adding the extra decimal point to break any ties. Figures in parentheses represent audience gains or losses from the previous February sweeps.

10 P.M.

Total Viewers

CBS11 -- 230,997 (minus 6,554)
WFAA8 -- 188,997 (minus 25,700)
NBC5 -- 146,321 (minus 21,281)
Fox4 -- 121,934 (minus 19,350)


CBS11 -- 81,853 (minus 5,135)
WFAA8 -- 80,348 (minus 1,980)
NBC5 --- 78,844 (plus 1,487)
Fox4 -- 64,399 (minus 13,890)

Comment: CBS11 enjoyed a substantial 9:45 to 10 p.m. "lead-in" advantage in total viewers from network programming. But among 25-to-54-year-olds, WFAA8 had a slight advantage over CBS11. The real over-achiever here is NBC5, which made it a fight to the finish among 25-to-54-year-olds despite getting comparatively little help from NBC network programming. Fox4's 10 p.m. news still suffers from being a largely redundant replay of the major stories on the station's one-hour 9 p.m. local edition.

6 A.M.

Total Viewers

Fox4 -- 113,127 (minus 25,387)
NBC5 -- 104,321 (minus 12,031)
WFAA8 -- 77,225 (plus 5,198)
CBS11 -- 39,290 (minus 22,349)

Fox4 -- 68,612 (minus 18,686)
NBC5 -- 51,760 (minus 8,821)
WFAA8 -- 50,857 (plus 528)
CBS11 -- 16,551 (minus 15,448)

Comment: WFAA8 again finished with the bronze, but came within a hair of beating NBC5 for second place among 25-to-54-year-olds. A saturation campaign for co-anchor Ron "Corning in the Morning" and free food giveaways from a traveling truck have helped to make the station a player again. Fox4 has to be concerned about its significant audience fall-offs while CBS11 again has re-defined the term "non-factor." Big year-to-year losses from already miniscule audience bases have put the station into virtual eclipse in the early mornings. It should be noted that unprecedented wintery weather last February helped to inflate those 2011 totals.

6 P.M.

Total Viewers

CBS11 -- 137,514 (minus 60,561)
WFAA8 -- 132,772 (minus 37,600)
Fox4 -- 115,160 (minus 33,050)
NBC5 -- 113,805 (minus 17,783)


Fox4 -- 54,769 (minus 15,442)
WFAA8 -- 43,936 (minus 21,615)
NBC5 -- 40,626 (plus 3,656)
CBS11 -- 26,181 (minus 28,808)

Comment: NBC5 respectively finished fourth and third but in a sense won at an hour where its rivals hemorrhaged viewers at a far more frightening rate. The Peacock was the only station to show any net gain, although not much of a one. CBS11 took heavy hits in both audience measurements. It still held on in the total viewers measurement for a narrow win over WFAA8 -- which also bled viewers.

5 P.M.

Total Viewers

NBC5 -- 122,611 (minus 4,129)
Fox4 -- 119,902 (minus 605)
WFAA8 -- 113,127 (minus 35,083)
CBS11 -- 69,773 (minus 60,430)

NBC5 -- 46,042 (plus 1,927)
Fox4 -- 43,936 (minus 13,849)
WFAA8 -- 42,732 (minus 2,315)
CBS11 -- 22,570 (minus 16,885)

Comment: NBC5 ran third in both measurements a year ago. So this is a considerable accomplishment that was achieved with a minimal loss in total viewers and a gain among 25-to-54-year-olds. CBS11 runs the risk of being as big a non-factor at 5 p.m. as it is at 6 a.m. WFAA8, without The Oprah Winfrey Show as a lead-in, did a good job of minimizing its losses in the 25-to-54 demographic. Fox4 won comfortably with 25-to-54-year-olds a year ago, but failed to hold serve.

And in other February sweeps results

***Wheel of Fortune, which WFAA8 abandoned a number of years ago for Entertainment Tonight, continued to roll at 6:30 p.m. on CBS11. It doubled the audience of ET in total viewers and also won by a lesser margin with 25-to-54-year-olds.

***In a significant accomplishment, Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast averaged more 18-to-49-year-olds (key target audience for entertainment programming) in February than the various 9 to 10 p.m. offerings on NBC, ABC and CBS. It finished third in total viewers, beating only NBC.

***NBC5's 4 p.m. local news narrowly topped that hour in total viewers, edging Fox4's double dose of Judge Judy. It also nipped JJ with 18-to-49-year-olds. Her gavel appears to be running out of gas.

***NBC's third hour of Today and Fox4's syndicated Live with Kelly respectively won at 9 a.m. in total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds.

***NBC5's syndicated Ellen took the 3 p.m. hour in both ratings measurements, in each case more than doubling the audience for Anderson, in its first year of syndication on WFAA8.

***KUVN23, the Spanish language Univision affiliate, averaged 168,840 viewers for its 10 p.m. local newscasts, including 105,560 in the 25-to-54 demographic. That would have ranked it third and an eye-popping first in competition with the four English language newscasts.

At 5 p.m., the KUVN23 local news averaged 77,750 total viewers, with 45,270 in the motherlode 25-to-54 range. That would rank it fourth and second.

I's not exactly an even playing field, though. While Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 bang heads with one another, KUVN23 long has been the dominant Spanish language station in D-FW, facing comparatively weak-kneed competition from Telemundo affiliate KXTX39.