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TV Sweeps: Olympics skews February ratings

Friday, March 01, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Before sweeps even began, the results of this month's ratings were already declared pretty much useless by TV insiders.

Graphic: TV News Ratings
February 2002


Usually during a sweeps ratings period, a station's viewership is measured to set future advertising rates. But because of skewing by the Olympics on NBC and the Super Bowl on Fox, the February ratings can't be used to verify trends or to project future ratings.

But sweeps are sweeps, and the winners will claim their crowns regardless.

At 5 a.m., WPXI was on top with KDKA second and WTAE third. But at 6 a.m., WTAE and WPXI were in a dead heat for first place.

NBC's "Today," usually No. 2 in the 7 to 9 a.m. time slot, ranked No. 1 this ratings period, likely due to interest in the Olympic athletes who appeared. Typically No. 1, ABC's "Good Morning America," ranked a close No. 2.

KDKA won at noon with WTAE second and WPXI third.

WPXI was on top at 5 p.m., followed by WTAE in second and KDKA in third.

At 6 p.m., KDKA took the lead with WPXI second and WTAE third.

In prime time, NBC's Olympics lineup powered WPXI to the top spot, with KDKA's CBS lineup second. ABC's dismal prime-time performance left WTAE trailing in a distant third. WPGH's Fox lineup was fourth, WCWB came in fifth and WNPA ranked sixth.

Pittsburgh's 10 p.m. newscasts weren't hurt terribly by prime-time Olympic broadcasts on NBC. WPGH's ratings were down slightly from a year ago, but up from January. WNPA was off a hair from January.

Late news ratings are difficult to measure this ratings period because WPXI's 11 p.m. newscast got pushed back most nights by the Olympics. By airing later, the number of homes using television was lower, making for an uneven field of comparison.

At 11 p.m. in head-to-head newscast competition, KDKA had a 10.1 rating (percentage of TV households) and a 17 share (percentage of sets in use). WTAE had a 8.4 rating/14 share.

On most nights during the month when WPXI's late news aired after the Olympics -- usually around 11:30 p.m. -- the station scored an 11.5 rating/28 share.

The ratings released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research are household ratings that reflect more a measure of popularity rather than a basis for advertising rates. TV commercials are generally sold on demographic ratings, which won't be available for several weeks.

In its ratings book, Nielsen flags contests, including those during newscasts on WPXI, because they may influence ratings. Lottery drawings on KDKA, which may also influence ratings, are not flagged because they're telecast year-round rather than only during sweeps.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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