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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs.-Sun., Oct. 17-20) -- Cowboys vs a tornado touchdown

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
A highly eventful Sunday night came and went with the Dallas Cowboys routing the visiting Philadelphia Eagles while a tornado tore up parts of Dallas and surrounding areas.

Before getting to the Nielsen numbers, let’s talk about what NBC5 did and didn’t do during NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

While Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 broke in with continuous weather coverage, NBC5 initially kept the game going without any warnings to viewers at all. The station then publicly apologized -- an extreme rarity in this market -- for its failure to alert those who were transfixed by the Cowboys game.

“We made a mistake by not immediately interrupting the football game with a Tornado warning,” NBC5 said in an early Monday evening post on its website. “Although our meteorologists were tracking thunderstorms across the area when the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Dallas County, we delayed breaking into programming for six minutes . . . When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter. We should have broken into football programming sooner. We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again.”

NBC5 eventually offered limited live updates and put a “Tornado Warning” bug on-screen. But in large part, commercials aired as scheduled, with advertisers paying premium prices for exposure during a game that averaged nearly 1.5 million D-FW viewers. My twitter feed, @unclebarkycom, became a hotbed of debate after I began commenting on the plusses and minuses of Sunday night’s weather coverage -- or lack thereof. For the record, CBS11 had the upper hand in the early going with continuous and alarming live video from one of its storm chasers. WFAA8 later weighed in with live ground level video of some of the serious damage while Fox4 stayed with in-studio weather graphics while the game played on.

After the game, NBC5 of course joined its rivals in offering live pictures of what the tornado had wrought. That’s the easy part. Based on nearly four decades of covering how D-FW’s four major TV news providers handled major breaking news, I can tell you that that the real litmus test is how a station performs in the heat of battle, so to speak.

In that context, NBC5 clearly could have done better, but didn’t. Had this been anything other than a Cowboys game, the station almost certainly would have joined its rivals in offering commercial-free, uninterrupted coverage. Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 didn’t face such a choice Sunday night. How they would have handled it will never be known. But for NBC5, which has a proud legacy of weather coverage and brands itself in that manner, Sunday night was a step backward.

“We look forward to regaining the trust of anyone we may have disappointed,” the station said in the final sentence of its apology. Viewers tend to forget in a hurry, so long- or even short-term damage to NBC5’s ratings is unlikely.

Ok, the Cowboys’ 37-10 blowout of the Eagles, which ran until 10:23 p.m., averaged 1,455,542 viewers locally, with 547,139 of them within the advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-old age range. That fell short of the Game 5 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Fox, which remains this season’s high with 1,564,368 total viewers and 578,649 in the 18-to-49 realm.

Opposite the Cowboys, Fox4’s weather coverage led from 9 to 10 p.m. with 224,453 total viewers before WFAA8 won from 10 to 10:30 p.m. with 238,056.

Earlier Sunday, Fox got bountiful returns with its mid-afternoon/early evening New Orleans Saints-Chicago Bears game, which averaged 700,565 viewers.

On Saturday, Baylor’s daytime win over Oklahoma State on Fox led all college football attractions with 176,842 total viewers.

Friday’s prime-time TV attractions as usual were paced by CBS’ Blue Bloods in total viewers (244,858) while Fox’s two-hour dose of wrestling again drew the most 18-to-49ers (54,427).

Fox’s Thursday Night Football matchup, in which the Kansas City Chiefs dominated the Denver Broncos while star QB Patrick Mahomes got hurt, dominated with 353,683 total viewers and 160,418 within the 18-to-49 motherlode.

Here are the Thursday and Friday local news derby results.

Thursday -- WFAA8 won a downsized three-way 10 p.m. race in both total viewers and with 25-to-54-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for news programming). Fox again trumped Fox4’s late nighter with a football overrun.

At 6 a.m., Fox4 and NBC5 tied for the lead in total viewers, with Fox4 nipping the Peacock among 25-to-54-year-olds.

NBC5 swept the 5 p.m. competitions. The 6 p.m. golds went to WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Friday -- NBC5 ran first in total viewers at 10 p.m. and Fox4 took the 25-to-54 crown.

Fox4 won in total viewers at 6 a.m., but it was WFAA8’s turn to rise up and win with 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 drew the most total viewers at 6 p.m. and shared the 25-to-54-year-old lead with Fox4. At 5 p.m., the winners were NBC5 in total viewers and Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net