Channel 4 is experiencing some morning glory.
The success of “Wake Up!” from 5 to 7 a.m. during the November sweeps flies in the face of conventional television wisdom that changing morning viewing routines is arguably one of the more difficult things in broadcasting to accomplish.
Just two months after introducing co-anchor Jordan Williams’ new morning teammates of co-anchor Teresa Weakley and meteorologist Todd Santos, “Wake Up!” finished in a tie with Channel 2’s recent powerhouse “Daybreak” for the two hours.
A year ago, “Daybreak” had more than a 50 percent edge in household ratings at 6 a.m., 7.4-4.7. This November it is in a statistical tie.
All the viewing information won’t be available for a few weeks when the demographics arrive and Nielsen reveals if Channel 4’s new viewers are in the category more desirable to advertisers.
But Channel 4’s household gains are impressive enough to ask “What happened?”
I don’t have any research to explain it, but my gut tells me that Channel 4’s success is due to multiple factors, including the new talent. This isn’t to minimize the talent factor. Weakley fits the mold of young and attractive anchors usually hired by Channel 2. Santos, who arrived from the Weather Channel and is married to a Western New Yorker, may speak too fast but he is a no-nonsense weather guy who looks every bit like Don Paul’s eventual replacement.
The November 2012 sweeps was the last one with Jodi Johnston as John Beard’s co-anchor and her final month of goodbyes may have artificially inflated Channel 2’s victory margin a year ago.
Johnston’s departure for a public relations job in banking may be one factor, but I’m not sure how large a factor it is. After all, Channel 2 replaced her with another strong local product, Melissa Holmes, and things continued to go very well for the station until November. Holmes and co-anchor John Beard may actually have a warmer relationship on “Daybreak” now than Beard had with Johnston, and the family atmosphere of Channel 2’s program with meteorologist Andy Parker continues.
The demise of Channel 7’s new morning program, “Good Morning,” with new co-anchors Tiffany Lundberg and Cole Heath, also can be a factor in Channel 4’s success.
Channel 7 has lost about one-third of its morning audience from a year ago and it appears that most of those viewers have headed over to Channel 4. That’s not surprising since Channel 7’s approach is more like Channel 4’s than Channel 2’s.
The change in morning news viewership of network news shows also could be a minor factor.
NBC’s “Today,” which has always been very strong in Western New York, took a big hit this November locally but still is No. 1 here. The viewers “Today” lost didn’t go over to ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Channel 7 here as they did nationally. They went over to “CBS This Morning” on Channel 4. It is now a strong No. 2 in the market. The strong lead-in from “Wake Up!” helped “CBS This Morning” and the weaker lead-in that “Daybreak” supplied “Today” also probably had something to do with its decline.
There also is something called a lead-out, which most likely helped “Wake Up!” Some viewers tend to watch a local morning program that airs on the same station as the network program they watch. More here are watching “CBS This Morning,” which helps Channel 4.
Additionally, Channel 4 widened its lead at 11 p.m. weekdays over Channel 2 and many people who go to bed after watching evening newscasts tend to watch the same channel in the morning when they get up.
Finally, there is the content factor. “Wake Up!” plays it pretty straight in the morning and focuses on the news. “Daybreak” has light segments on product tests and has Kevin O’Neill roaming around doing light features. There is a possibility that some viewers are getting a little tired of those old features. They might also be getting tired of Channel 2’s entire news approach.
I would guess that Channel 2 management is preparing to do some research to determine if that is true if it hasn’t done so already.
Some quick takes:
• Reporter Jim Axelrod did an excellent piece on “The CBS Evening News” on Monday on Canisius High School graduate, math whiz and Penn State football star John Urschel. He obviously has an incredible brain, which makes you wonder if it is such a good idea to risk it playing football these days. Perhaps Urschel should consult former Buffalo Bill Joe DeLamielleure, who was on ABC’s “This Week” a week ago talking about his post-concussion issues …
• I love the humorous, voiceover-free Channel 2 promos for the upcoming Winter Olympics that feature anchors Scott Levin, Beard and Holmes wearing sports equipment while they work in the newsroom. They seem similar to the ESPN promos. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that Channel 2 has “borrowed” an idea from ESPN. Its news rundown was “borrowed” from ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and other programs …
• There was a lot of hand-wringing over the Buffalo Bills playing their annual game in Toronto after last Sunday’s 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta before a disappointing crowd that supported the Falcons as much as the Bills. But the Toronto series has one positive for Bills fans. The Toronto games are televised here even when they don’t come close to selling out. If the game against a NFC opponent with a bad record had been at the Ralph, there is a good chance the heartbreaking loss wouldn’t have been televised here.