A new year, some new opinions:
• Let’s hope that Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw does a better job counting our money than he does counting the size of local news audiences.
Mychajliw, who earned his current job partly because of the name recognition he received from being a former Channel 2 and Channel 7 reporter, took a shot at his old profession on Facebook last week.
He posted a comment to my sarcastic Facebook post about all the news reporters who had to tell Western New Yorkers that it was cold outside.
Here’s my original posting on Jan. 2: “It is cold outside. Channel 4 gave me the scoop for about 10 minutes during its newscast. First I heard it from Don Paul, then from Rich Newberg, then from Rachel Kingston and then from Mike Cejka. I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
Here’s Mychajliw’s comment: “One of the 6,397 reasons why no one watches local news anymore. Complete waste of time.”
Later he added: “In God we Trust. All others bring data. Numbers don’t lie. Viewership has been trending downwards for years.”
I don’t disagree with Mychajliw’s conclusion that watching local news often can be a waste of time. However, thousands of Western New Yorkers certainly seem willing to waste it.
While I have been documenting some news decline over the years, I felt compelled to defend the local news departments somewhat after reading Mychajliw’s cheap shot.
I replied to Mychajliw that “local news still does pretty well here in ratings.”
Mychajliw’s remark made me look at the data because as the comptroller said, numbers don’t lie.
During the November sweeps of 2007, the three local news stations had a combined rating of 26.3 at 6 p.m. In November 2013, the combined rating was 26.5. The lowest combined rating at 6 p.m. over those seven years was 23.2. That’s pretty steady viewership, especially when you consider all the viewing options these days.
There has been significant decline at 11 p.m. In November 2007, the three news department had a combined rating of 30.0. In November 2013, the three local news stations had a combined rating of 21.3. The biggest drop occurred from November 2007 to November 2008 when the combined rating was 25.8.
However, the 11 p.m. drop partly can be explained in lifestyle and programming changes. People go to bed earlier and they often do after watching the 10 p.m. news on WNLO-TV and WUTV produced by Channel 4 and Channel 2, respectively.
And more people get up early, which explains why the Channel 2 and Channel 4 morning shows here have such large viewership.
For further evidence of Mychajliw’s flawed numbers, just take a look at the ratings on the Thursday that he commented that no one watches local news anymore.
On that cold night, the three stations had a combined 6 p.m. rating of 34.1, meaning about one-third of area households were watching local news. That’s equivalent to more than 216,000 households, which could mean as many as 500,000 viewers were watching.
At 11 p.m., the three stations had a combined rating of 25.5.
Just this past Monday night when Western New York practically was closed because of blizzard warnings, the three 6 p.m. newscasts had a combined rating of 45.5. That’s equivalent to about 288,000 households, which could mean as many as 700,000 viewers.
On Tuesday, the three 6 p.m. newscasts had a combined rating of 48.4, which means roughly half of WNY homes here were tuned in.
Sure it was a captive audience with so many driving bans. Still, that’s a lot of “nobodies” watching all the newscasts during crises and during normal news days, Stefan.
• Why are there so many more newscasts throughout the day when there often isn’t that much news to fill them, you might ask?
An industry insider told me years ago that advertising inside local programming accounts for about 40 percent of a local station’s revenues these days now that the broadcast networks no longer give affiliates compensation for carrying their programs.
• One of the aggravating things about Time Warner Cable is that it doesn’t carry the Canadian channels affiliated with CTV and CBC in high definition. This is especially annoying to hockey fans who want to watch Hockey Night in Canada in HD.
It also is a little weird that the same games not in HD on the CBC affiliate out of Toronto are in HD off of CBC when they are simulcast on the NHL Network on TWC.
I was hoping that Time Warner would carry CBC in time for its coverage of the Sochi Olympics next month.
But it isn’t going to happen.
A Time Warner spokesperson emailed me the following when I asked about the Olympic possibility: “We do not have plans to carry CBC in HD at this time.”
The spokesperson added: “Because Time Warner Cable currently carries NHL in HD on its lineup, when CBC provides its programming in HD to NHL, it is aired in HD for our customers.”
That’s all true. But it costs $9 a month to get the sports package that the NHL Network is on. It costs nothing extra to get CBC. I’m sure most Time Warner customers would prefer to see CBC in HD than some of the other channels it does carry in HD.
“We’re proud to offer CBC, something our satellite competitors don’t,” added the TWC spokesperson. “We think it’s better for all of our western NY customers if we use network capacity to add more On Demand, more content, and new features than to add a full-time HD feed for which there has been minimal demand.’
“We have a full suite of NBC networks which will carry Olympics programming, and expect our customers will have access to content on different platforms like they did in 2012.”
I get emails all the time asking when CBC is going to be carried in HD. If you are one those emailers, I suggest you call TWC.
• Finally, I’ve been late addressing a Christmas issue over at Channel 4.
The station’s new general manager, Rene LaSpina, ended a long-standing practice of carrying minimal news programming on the holiday so more staffers could share the day with their families.
I’ve been told that working on this past holiday upset many staffers even if they received extra holiday pay, and that the staffers also questioned whether the increased newscasts would pay off on a day that generally doesn’t generate a lot of news.
The results are in. Channel 4 had a healthy 3.1 rating at 5 a.m. and a 4.1 at 6 a.m. while its competitors didn’t even hit a 1 rating with their year-end review shows. Channel 4 also had a strong 7.6 rating at noon and won decisively at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. when Channel 2 normally dominates. Channel 2 was back on top at 6 p.m.
I understand why Channel 4 staffers would question the Christmas strategy and wish they could get the holiday off. But if advertising revenue was as healthy as those numbers, Channel 4 staffers should expect to be working next Christmas.