WTHR-TV Channel 13 retained its position during the November sweeps period as the most-watched station for news in central Indiana, bolstered by a huge ratings boost during the coveted 11 p.m. timeslot.
The audience for WTHR’s late-night newscast jumped 25.3 percent compared to the same time last year, registering a 6.9 rating, which translates to 12.7 percent of the television-viewing audience.
Each rating point represents 10,720 households.
WTHR Vice President and General Manager John Cardenas said he is pleased with the results, particularly since the station “continues to face significant lead-in challenges with NBC primetime programming.”
NBC’s primetime weeknight programming viewership from 8 to 11 p.m. is down a collective 7.7 percent from the same time last year, according to the latest results.
The network's primetime ratings haven't recovered since its failed decision in 2009 to move "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno to the 10 p.m. slot. An outcry from NBC's local affiliates, whose nighttime newscast ratings fell in unison with Leno's, caused the network to pull the plug on replacement Conan O'Brien and reinsert Leno in the 11:30 p.m. timeslot.
Locally, Leno's "Tonight Show" scored a 3.2 rating, a 26.2-percent increase from O'Brien's audience last November, which may have helped WTHR's newscast score so well at 11 p.m. A study by research firm Harmelin Media estimated audiences for most NBC affiliates' late news plunged an average of 25 percent among the key 24- to 54-year-old demographic when Leno was replaced by O'Brien.
But Cardenas attributed WTHR's success to other factors, including an improvement in the station's newscasts.
"I don't believe that viewers are making a choice based on what follows it at 11:30," he said.
Sweeps periods occur four times a year. The spring and fall periods in May and November are the most important to advertisers.
WTHR wrestled the late-night news lead away from WISH-TV Channel 8, but not by much. WISH scored a 6.8 rating, or 12.5 percent of the television viewing audience, a slight drop of 1.5 percent when compared with last November.
WRTV-Channel 6’s audience remained flat at 11 p.m. The 4.5 rating was unchanged from the same month last year.
Despite WISH’s dip at 11 p.m., its newscasts registering viewership gains in other slots.
WISH took over the 5 a.m. ratings lead from WTHR by growing viewership 7.2 percent when compared to last November. WISH also registered increases at 6 a.m., noon, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“We've just been hitting hard in a lot of different areas," WISH General Manager Jeff White said. "We've just been really dedicated to being more aggressive with the news marketplace."
Still, WTHR won the 6 a.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. timeslots, and tied WISH for the top newscast at noon. WTHR, however, saw steep viewership declines of 24.4 percent at 5 a.m. and 20.1 percent at 6 a.m.
The ratings race at 6 a.m. was nearly as close. WTHR recorded a 4.8 rating. WISH increased its viewership during the time period by 7 percent, to close the gap with a 4.5 rating.
"You always want to win everything," Cardenas said. "But when you look at how light the viewing is at that [5 a.m.] time period, the percentage [loss] looks bigger."
WTHR grew its audience at noon by 17.6 percent, to garner a 4.7 share. But WISH’s viewership during the timeslot climbed by a whopping 37.7 percent, to also push it to a 4.7 rating.
WTHR outdistanced second-place WISH at 5 p.m. by a 7.6 to 4.5 margin, and also at 6 p.m., 9.2 to 5.3.
Television stations WXIN Channel 59 and WRTV-TV Channel 6 also made news-ratings strides at certain times of the day.
WXIN, the local Fox affiliate, increased viewership 41.9 percent during the 6 a.m. hour to garner a 2.7 rating, good for third place. It also grew its audience at 5 p.m. by 34.5 percent, which translated to a 1.7 rating. WXIN’s viewership at 5 p.m., however, still trails the other three networks.
Viewership for WXIN’s 4 p.m. newscast was up 19.6 percent, and 14.3 percent at 10 p.m.
Perhaps most impressive is WXIN’s viewership for its 9 a.m. newscast, which grew 124.9 percent compared to last November when it aired "Maury Povich" instead of news. WXIN now televises news weekday mornings from 4:30 to 10 a.m.
None of the other local stations broadcasts news at 9 a.m., but WXIN fared well against their programming. It topped WRTV’s “Regis & Kelly,” WISH’s “Indy Style” and closed within a percentage point of WTHR’s “Today Show” during the 9 a.m. hour.
“Central Indiana viewers are making it clear they can depend on Fox59 News, because of our commitment to being there for them,” WXIN General Manager Jerry Martin said in a prepared statement.
WRTV made huge strides at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and noon, growing its audience by double-digits in each of the timeslots. The station still lags WTHR and WISH but is becoming more competitive.
Paul Montgomery, WRTV’s director of audience development, attributed the increase in viewership to more investigative reporting and a change in anchors to Chris Pisano (mornings) and Todd Connor (night).
“I’m particularly pleased with the morning [results], because we had double-digit growth year-to-year,” he said. “So that’s obviously real positive because we’ve made some talent changes.”
Overall, more viewers in central Indiana tuned into newscasts in November compared to the same time last year. The exception was at 5 a.m., when viewership was down slightly.