Most local news broadcasts lost viewers last month

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Steep declines in viewership caused most morning and late-night local newscasts' ratings to tumble during the May "sweeps" period, compared with the same time last year.

WTHR-TV Channel 13 retained its position as the most-watched station for news in central Indiana, even though viewership declined in several time slots by double-digit percentages. But WXIN-TV Channel 59 is bucking the trend, improving its morning news viewership in all its morning time slots.

The dropoff for WTHR was most evident in the morning, when its newscasts that begin airing at 4:30 a.m. registered decreases of up to 47 percent. The NBC affiliate recorded a 4.9 rating, which translates to 18 percent of the television-viewing audience, to outpace the other three local news programs during the 6 a.m. hour. Each rating point represents 10,720 households.

Yet the morning newscast is off 34.1 percent from the same month last year, when WTHR recorded a 7.5 rating, attracting 26 percent of TV viewers. And its 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. time slots registered even greater drops.

WTHR’s slip has allowed competitors WISH-TV Channel 8, WRTV-TV Channel 6 and WXIN to narrow the gap and, in a few instances, even tie or surpass the station. WISH and WRTV made strides simply by losing fewer viewers than WTHR, while WXIN’s morning audience is on the rise.
“There are always going to be dips and valleys when you look at these ratings,” acknowledged Jeff Dutton, WTHR’s creative services director. “Our plan is to stay the course and try to widen that lead in the next period, which is July.”

Sweeps occur four times a year, although the spring and fall periods in May and November are the most important to advertisers.

In the 6 a.m. hour, WISH, a CBS affiliate, closely trailed WTHR with a 4.6 rating, down just 5 percent from last May. ABC station WRTV’s 1.9 rating was 24 percent lower than the year-ago period, while WXIN, a Fox affiliate, had more to cheer about.

Its 2.9 rating was up 8.4 percent from last May—and was just one of several viewership increases the station’s newscasts registered in the May sweeps period.

“It’s clear there is a major shift in the morning news viewing landscape in Indianapolis,” WXIN News Director Lee Rosenthal said. “To be the only station growing … shows viewers now believe Fox59 Morning News is the place to turn when they wake up.”

WXIN’s audience at 4:30 a.m. increased 43.9 percent, while its 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. newscasts attracted 64.3 percent and 67.5 percent more viewers, respectively.

The station’s 1.3 rating at 4:30 a.m. tied WTHR for the lead, and its 1.8 at 5 a.m. came close to the 1.9 WISH and WTHR both recorded.

WISH, though, posted viewership decreases of 35.8 percent at 4:30 a.m., 25.9 percent at 5 a.m., and 18.5 percent at 5:30 a.m.

Jeff White, WISH president and general manager, attributed the declines to the transition from analog to digital television last year, which might have made it more difficult for some viewers to get the station’s signal. Further, he said WISH posted better numbers in the fall.

“We’ve grown or held our audience from our November book,” White said. “That’s a good indicator for me.”

WRTV, meanwhile, boasted a 30-percent increase at 4:30 a.m., even though its rating was just a 1.0. Viewership was down 20.8 percent at 5 a.m. and 23.5 percent at 5:30 a.m.

An overall dip in television viewership last month in central Indiana, coupled with a lack of compelling news stories, likely contributed to the sagging numbers, said Paul Montgomery, WRTV’s director of audience development.

“There wasn’t one major driver,” he said. “With the exception of Fox 59, everybody was down.”

Bill Perkins, president of Indianapolis-based media-buying firm Perkins Nichols Media, is taking notice. He said his company purchased more spots for clients on WXIN’s morning news programs than it ever has in the past.

“It’s all live and local,” Perkins said. “There’s some merit to that.”

With a 3.7 rating in the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. time slot, WXIN’s local news bested both "Good Morning America" airing on WRTV and "The Early Show" on WISH. WTHR maintained its lead during the two hours with "The Today Show," although its rating fell to 4.7 from 6.7 since last May.

WXIN is IBJ's news-gathering partner.


  • i love wthr.
    i have been waching wthr for 13 years now.ilove the 11pm news 4am news and the 5pm news.they are the best news team out there,
  • WTHR
    WTHR has been my favorite TV news station for 20+ years but as I watch the early morning coverage lately I become more and more displeased. There are way to many commercials and I find myself sitting there with remote in hand so I can change channels when one of your station breaks every 5 minutes for a three minute car add. I have talked to numerous people and they all agree including my wife. You also repeat the news with a little twist every 30 minutes again not what you used to be. Unhappy in New Palestine, Indiana
    • Not run by Fox News
      @ Carol. Actually FOX 59 is owned by Tribune out of Chicago. They aren't affiliated with FOX News. The ratings are up there because of the great chemistry with the whole morning show crew and the hustle of the reporters.
    • Ratings helped by Scott
      MARTIN, I see you don't like Scott: Ratings would disagree with you. I like Ray and Scott. Both shows are up, but DON'T FORGET THE ARTICLES FACTS: the show Ray is on {7-9} is up less than 5%. The show Scott is on is up 44% to 67% A lot of people like skill and personality, such as the viewers
    • Where is Fox?
      What has happened to Fox 59 News since the days of Cody Stark and Shireen on the scene? Fox used to boast about being different than the other morning news stations because they were! They added a touch of zany and off the wall broadcasting that made the news fun to watch. Now they are like the rest. They report the news with the same boring monotone they once opposed.
      Fox 59, do not sweep this under the carpet, viewers want to know! What has happened?
    • Ray Cortopassi = more FOX 59 viewers
      FOX 59's morning ratings are likely because of veteran newscaster Ray Cortopassi. Ray's a great addition, and does a lot to counteract major-league goofball Scott Jones.
      • Carl Brizzi V. Russ McQuade Matchup
        I like watching FOX59 as Russ M pounds Carl B's lights out. I guess Russ has taught Carl how to eat humble pie... Carl must really like humble pie as he eats an aweful lot of it.
      • WTHR TV
        Between the 4:30AM - 7:00AM, WTHR TV morning show always repeats the same news stories over and over, with the same video and script.....most of these stories are the same ones that aired from the 11 PM news the night before. Viership could be down since their is no real NEW news to watch in the AM.
      • "Breaking News"
        The much overused "Breaking News" has lost all of its attention gathering power. All four stations should agree NOT to use it unless something happens as they go on air or during the broadcast. Otherwise its just news.
      • eye candy
        I only watch 13 between about 6:50 and 7:00 to see Julia Moffit's legs...then I switch over to 59 because I want to know what is going on around me.
      • Shella is A Shill
        I used to like Wish-TV but their political reporting Jim Shella has become just a shill for political insiders. He lost his independence years ago. WRTV's Norm Cox on the other hand reports circles around Shella. If Wish-TV got back into real political reporting, instead of the canned, insider reports we get from Shella, I'd start watching Wish-TV again.
      • liberals are destroying america
        just like a liberal to whine
      • Lighten up
        I'm sick of how the news station here report on all the negative. Go to other states and they "report the news" they do not try to slant it to their liking. Here they seem to get a kick out of sensationalizing.
      • WISH TV
        I was totally disgusted with the way they handled that entire story - as well as others. Too many news options out there. They are now off my list as well.
      • Go FOX!!!
        I love the fact FOX59 news stays local after 7 when the others go national!! I need to know what's going on HERE...not in New York City!! I love the FOX morning crew!!!
      • Fox
        They early morning slots for WXIN are heating up because people who are still unemployed can't sleep so they turn the tv on and it happens to be what they were watching the night before - MORE FOX NEWS BS
        • WISH-TV
          I stopped watching WISH-TV because I got tired of them reminding me that they "broke" the Carmel basketball incident. I wanted news from them - not boasting that they brought us the story five minutes before the other stations.

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