WTHR's status as TV news leader starting to erode

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With more tumult in local television news ratings than there has been in a decade, ad buyers said this November sweeps period has the potential to significantly affect stations’ ad rates—and financial fortunes—for 2011.

wthrIf the November viewer numbers tabulated by New York-based Nielsen Media Research are close to the sweeps periods in July and October, the market’s leader, WTHR-TV Channel 13, could see demand for advertising during its newscasts decrease. For a station that has been the perennial local TV news ratings leader, the shift in power could be quite a jolt.

Television viewer ratings for the November sweeps period, ad buyers said, sets the stations’ advertising rates for the first half of the following year.

Gains by WISH-TV Channel 8 and WXIN-TV Channel 59 have media buyers eyeing this year’s November sweeps especially closely, with some wondering if WTHR will change its strategy in local news programming.

“Over the last year or so, WTHR’s ratings have slipped, and the other stations have started to catch up,” said Sue Doron, media director for EchoPoint Media, the media buying arm of ad agency Young & Laramore. “What we’re seeing is the other stations working hard to improve their local news, and as a result, there’s more parity in the market. As a buyer, I like having more options for my clients, but I’m sure this is a concern for WTHR.”

Bill Perkins, a longtime local media buyer and president of Perkins Nichols Media, noted that the overall central Indiana TV viewing audience is not growing.

“So when one station grows viewership, that growth is coming from somewhere else,” Perkins said. He said a recent change in WTHR’s news director position “indicates they have a problem.”

WTHR General Manager John Cardenas did not return calls seeking comment.

Advertising sold during local newscasts is stations’ largest single source of revenue, usually 40 percent to 60 percent of the total.

In recent years, WTHR has been able to charge 25 percent more for ads than WISH and more than 50 percent more than WXIN and WRTV-TV Channel 6. A 30-second spot during the local news can run anywhere from $600 to $1,500.

Ratings declines over two or three sweeps period might be enough to soften the demand for any TV show, Perkins said.

WTHR, an NBC affiliate, has been hit especially hard during the morning hours. Comparing weekday newscasts from October 2010 to October 2009, WTHR saw its local news rating decline 39.1 percent during the 5 a.m. slot, 31.3 percent at 5:30 a.m., and 28.7 percent at 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, WTHR’s main competitor, WISH, a CBS affiliate, saw ratings increases of 38.1 percent, 50.2 percent and 19.8 percent during the same time slots in the October year-over-year comparison.

“It continues to be a battle with WTHR and the other stations, but I really like the direction we’re headed,” said WISH General Manager Jeff White. “We’re aggressively getting out there to deliver hard news, and people are taking notice.”

WXIN, a Fox affiliate, is also gaining ground with its morning news, and WRTV, an ABC affiliate, is holding its own, though it still lags the others.

Even more troubling for WTHR, Perkins said, is that NBC’s “Today Show” gets nearly double the ratings of national morning news programs on ABC and CBS.

Despite the declines, WTHR is still the ratings leader during several local news time slots throughout the day. But gone are the days when WTHR’s ratings equaled that of its competitors combined.

WTHR was up slightly during the noon news in October compared with the same period a year ago, but during the 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. slots, it is down 7.6 percent to 12.9 percent. WISH and WRTV, too, are down during those times—even more than WTHR, while WXIN’s 4 p.m. news is up 22.3 percent and its 5 p.m. news is up slightly from the syndicated programming that appeared in that slot a year ago.

Despite poor ratings for NBC’s prime-time lineup, WTHR remains in a close battle with WISH for the 11 p.m. news rating lead.•


  • Love WTHR
    LOVE Andrea Morehead! She enjoys her job makes watching it more enjoyable! She's very personable!
  • Drama Queen
    I do not watch WTHR when Andrea Morehead is on. She's soooo dramatic.
  • Two Reasons Why
    I don't watch CH 13 news for two reasons: Andrea Morehead and Dave Callabro.
    • ratings
      Don't worry things will change at WTHR the new guy will make sure, he likes power and micro managing.
    • grammar
      or is it "whomever?" LOL!!! :)
    • Weather Girls!
      I watch Fox 59 in the AM, and whoever has the hottest weather girl on the weekends, either Buchman or Miscencik(SP?) :)
    • wow
      You have way too much time on your hands.
    • Even though Judge Judy sez it--it's WRONG!
      Where were this (and other local TV stations)_anchors and newsmen when grammar lessons were being taught in grade school? Repetitively the same awful mistakes--the Hoosierisms "the reason why) (well, why is the reason, rest is clutter!) is one of the most repeated errors. Even worse--and this one grates--ending phrases with "at" as in "here's where it's at..." I recently heard Ray Cortapassi quip about something while "laying in bed with my wife.." (I devoutly hope he meant "lying in bed"---but the verb "lay" when they mean "lie" is one of the most repeated errors. BUT THE VERY Worst--is the erroneous "I feel badly.." or "we" or "they" feel badly! I cringe when the otherwise dogmatic Judge Judy says this, as she often does--she who so authoritatively corrects the grammar of the hapless ill-educated appearing in her TV courtroom. To sum up: Local TV needs to lose its pervasive "cutesy" and "folksy" format--even more to lose its self-styled "hard question" promos--(that one gal's hard questions are not hard--just dense!) Maybe the News Directors need to go back to the origin of the word "n e w s" (north, east, south,west)--the points of the compass--and stick to reporting the news--not trying to re-invent it! Oh to go back to the days of Gilbert Forbes, Eldon Campbell, Bob Gamble, Tom Cochrun, ---before news shoes degenerated into what was dubbed "tap dancing"--self-promoting salespeople. PS: And to promo "BREAKING NEWS" prostitutes the term and makes it meaningless!!! Lose ambush journalism--go back to basics--and do the shows in English.(Correct English, lie not lay, feel bad, not badly, lose the "at."
    • "More Breaking News"
      This "breaking news" line is really getting old fast. A cat up a tree is not, in my opinion worthy of "Breking news.
      One more thing.
      On the weekends,the WTHR weather girl and the weekend anchor lady could consider stopping the giggling and laughing about whatever it is they think is so funny.
      That in and of itself sends me running to whatever other news station comes up next after I start surfing.
    • Personnel
      Two words....Eva Pilgrim, FOX59. Great personality..was able to show it more during the early morning shift due to a more relaxed on-air environment. But I do think there is a correlation not only between production and ratings but on air talent and ratings...and Eva has a charisma that the camera likes!
    • News
      I am not surprised that the news is losing viewers. Can one channel please just give the news? I will never go to your website for the story, I don't want to hear what the neighbors have to say so don't have a reporter out there to interview neighbors, don't ever try to talk to grieving family members (is the head dead yet?), I don't want a 10 minute 60 Minutes style expose on anything! Stop beating a story like a dead horse for WEEKS. And STOP with the self-promotion, with wasting time telling me the story will be on the 11:00 news. Just give the darn news!!! People just want the news, tell me what I need to know, what I don't already know! And please pronounce the words correctly-like a professional-while you give it to me. Otherwise it's embarassing to even listen to you! If one station could do those things, I'm sure they would have a fabulous following! Lately Fox 59 has been the least annoying!
    • Bring Anne Ryder out of Retirement!
      It's time to bring Anne Ryder out of retirement. 13 has NEVER been the same since she left. I'm sure Angela Buchman by herself will yield a ratings win for WISH TV.
    • Roux
      Sorry, you are absolutely correct. I read to fast and thought it was talking about Columbus.... My bad. i do believe he is working in Detroit now though. Good luck to him
    • Who is Brandon Roux?
      Brandon Roux never worked at WTHR... are you from Detroit or Columbus, Ohio and getting confused?
      • 13
        I havent watched 13 since they got rid of Brandon Roux. Such a foolish mistake!!!
        • Brad Edwards FTW!!!
          We now watch WISH just so we can listen to Brad oversell the news - sometimes a feature story, sometimes as anchor. Great entertainment value!
        • BIG STORY
          I agree about the 'breaking news'...also, one station had to use "BIG STORY" all over the screen, just so we knew that it really was a "BIG STORY". How insulting.
        • Jacques
          Way to hold a grudge! Jacques Natz has been gone from WTHR for many years.
        • Good
          Couldn't happen to a nicer station. I hope Jacques Natz is responsible for this.
          • Stay The Course!
            No doubt, a year of Jay Leno @ 10pm really damaged all the NBC affiliates around the country, by providing a poor lead-in to 11pm.

            Personally, I think WTHR is the best news station in the city and I haven't noticed quality slipping. Sometimes things are out of your hands and that is never a good time to start shuffling around staff. How does that ever help? It only creates uncertainty and breeds sudden changes and styles and that is how you lose an audience.

            13 should stay the course and keep doing what they do best.
          • Bill!
            A story is not a story until Bill Perkins is quoted.
          • More good news
            I normally watch WISH-TV news with WTHR a close second and never WRTV-6.

            I continue to yearn for the local newscasts that learn that Hoosiers want some positive but solid good news stories that balance out the negative and bad news that dominates the air time. (i.e. Anne Ryder's HOPE TO TELL series of yesteryear.)

          • Back and forth
            I finally quit watching Ch8 News after much frustration due to the newscasters' (one especially) inability to pronounce simple names. I know that's silly but I feel it reflects on their ability and credibility. I changed to WTHR for the most part but watched Fox59 for one show, noted two misspelled simple words in their visual displays and moved back to WTHR. I do think that no newscasters speak as we are taught as young kids in school and I don't blame the writers. If the newscasters had any skills (in my opinion) I believe they would insist on better writing.
          • Shift seems to make sense
            When my family moved here we watched ABC and NBC mostly. Recently though we find ourselves watch more and more news on Fox 59.
          • Shift seems to make sense
            When my family moved here we watched ABC and NBC mostly. Recently though we find ourselves watch more and more news on Fox 59.
          • Ratings
            I watch WTHR until WISH TV weather comes on at 5:45. For some reason the weather reporting is much better!
          • Breaking News !!!
            I prefer Ch 13 over Ch 8 but they both overwork the "Breaking News" lead-in. Also very tired of the continuous self promotion on both stations.
          • Leno & Middle America
            Leno's fan base is dominated by older people from Middle America. Once the Baby Boom generation heads to the nursing homes, Leno's fan base is gone.
          • Never turn the TV on during the day
            But, I watch the Channel 13 news at 11:00 as it plays right into Jay Leno.

            If I watch Network TV shows, 90% of them are CBS...much better lineup.

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