The TV News Ratings War

I haven't taken a deep dive into the state of the local television news since this cover story in 2009, when the recession was wreaking havoc on newsroom.

I'll return to the subject in this week's Phoenix, which is on the street Thursday. But in the meantime, I wanted to offer up the latest ratings. There's a lot to pore through - faced with diminishing audiences, local television stations in Providence and across the country have multiplied their newscasts in a bid to reach viewers when it is most convenient for them.

Nielsen publishes ratings four times a year. And the latest "book" is from November. It was, broadly speaking, a good month for the local news. But traditional ratings leader WJAR (Channel 10) came out on top.

The station led its rivals WPRI (Channel 12) and WLNE (Channel 6) in every time slot - morning, afternoon, and night (WJAR does not have a 10 pm news broadcast, so WPRI stood alone there).

Ratings for WJAR's four morning newscasts - 4:30 am, 5 am, 5:30 am, and 6 am - were all up over the previous year. WPRI registered steep drops, in percentage terms in the morning - the 5:30 news was down 34 percent - but those numbers aren't terribly significant since the audiences are relatively small to begin with.

At 6 pm, WJAR was up 10 percent over the previous year, with a 9.65 rating (that means 9.65 percent of homes in the market tuned into the news, on average). WPRI was second at 7.18, up 8 percent over the previous year. And WLNE was third at 1.22, down 27 percent from November 2011.

Among the 25-54 demographic that is considered the most important for advertisers, WJAR had a 4.42 rating (up 21 percent), WPRI had a 2.63 rating (up 22 percent), and WLNE had a 0.4 rating (down 55 percent).

At 11 pm, WJAR had an overall 6.42 rating (up 15 percent from last year), WPRI was second at 5.39 (down 12 percent), and WLNE was third at 1.52 (down 11 percent).

If WJAR can feel good about its healthy lead in the ratings, WPRI can feel good about the long-term trends: it has made significant gains on the traditional market leader in the last decade or so.

WLNE can't feel good about much of anything. The station, which traditionally finishes last, saw its already meager ratings drop almost across the board - from 2 percent to 27 percent, depending on the newscast.

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