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RVA News Wars: NBC12 touts leads despite morning news dip

Jonathan Spiers December 23, 2016 0

The NBC 12 morning news team, from left: Candice Smith, Andrew Freiden, Karla Redditte, Eric Philips and Sarah Bloom. (Courtesy NBC 12)

The NBC12 morning news team, from left: Candice Smith, Andrew Freiden, Karla Redditte, Eric Philips and Sarah Bloom. (Courtesy NBC 12)

While one local TV station celebrates its success in morning news ratings, a competitor is in turn highlighting its standing as the Richmond area’s perennial market leader.

Just days after WTVR CBS 6 announced it unseated WWBT NBC12 in morning news ratings for the month of November – the first time it had done so in 22 years – WWBT released its own announcement Wednesday claiming the No. 1 spot in overall viewership and in several demographics, including the key 25-54-year-old viewer that most appeals to advertisers.

The release, which includes a breakdown of November ratings numbers and states NBC12 News “remains RVA’s #1 choice” from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., appears to be in response to WTVR’s announcement, which noted a higher household rating and market share for November’s 4:30-7 a.m. timeslot specifically.

But Kym Grinnage and Frank Jones, WWBT’s general manager and news director, respectively, said the release was not in response to WTVR’s announcement.

“Absolutely not,” Jones said Thursday. “From time to time we will announce information for a ratings period. That announcement was put out by our station and our marketing department and was not directly in connection with that.”

Added Grinnage: “We’re not in competition from a ratings standpoint in the media with WTVR. I consider them to be good colleagues, and Stephen Hayes is a very good friend,” Grinnage said.

Hayes, the general manager of WTVR, said he found the announcement interesting in light of his station’s release but described the two stations as friendly competitors with a common end-goal.

“We look at WWBT and (ABC affiliate) WRIC as competitors, but also partners in us conveying local news and coverage to the market,” Hayes said.

Grinnage offered a similar perspective, describing the stations less as competitors than as colleagues in a competitive market.

“I like a very competitive marketplace, because that’s the healthiest thing for TV stations,” he said.

The NBC12 news studio.

The NBC12 news studio.

While WTVR claimed a 4.6 household rating and 17 household share for its morning programming in November, compared to WWBT’s 4.4 rating and 15 share according to consumer tracking firm Nielsen, WWBT’s announcement cited not only Nielsen but also comScore, another media measurement and analytics firm, in its No. 1 ranking in daylong ratings and specific demographics.

The station said it came in first in November in daily viewership overall from 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and the 25-54 demographic specifically for the 4:30 to 7 a.m. morning news bracket and for combined household incomes of $75,000 or more, according to Nielsen individually.

While Grinnage acknowledged WTVR surpassed his station by two-tenths of a rating point for the November morning news slot, he said WWBT gauges its success less on specific news times than on broader ratings numbers and those viewer demographics.

“We look at household ratings every day, every month, and we really focus on a total year of ratings, not just on one particular (ratings) book,” Grinnage said. “More importantly, we focus on demographics, because in terms of reach, households are very important, but the most important indication is the people that you’re reaching, how many people you’re reaching.

“For the advertising community, advertisers are mainly focused on demographics, and the key demographic that most advertisers look for are adults 25-54, and we’ve been leading in that category for years and years,” he said.

Grinnage and Jones acknowledged recent changes to the makeup of its morning news team, which now consists of meteorologist Andrew Freiden, anchors Sarah Bloom, Eric Philips and Karla Redditte, and traffic reporter Candice Smith, following the recent moves of Tracy Lynn and Heather Sullivan to afternoon and evening news. They said such moves are not uncommon and were not made in response to ratings reports.

“We always have to be constantly evolving, not necessarily because another station is doing better but because our audience demands it,” Jones said. “If there’s a sameness to what we do, the audience is going to react to that. Just like their lives are changing, we have to change our product.

Echoing comments Hayes offered earlier in the week, Grinnage, who has been at WWBT 26 years and its general manager the past five, said the better each station does in terms of ratings, the better it is for the industry as well as for viewers. Hayes previously said the three major network affiliates collectively reach about 75 percent of the local market on a weekly basis.

“The main thing that all of the TV stations are trying to do is make sure that we have more people watching free, over-the-air TV on a daily basis,” he said. “That’s the best thing for our industry, because obviously the world has changed and there are more opportunities to get news from various sources. But the only place where you can get local, live news is from the TV station.”

Where TV ratings historically have been gauged by specific months of the year – ratings sweeps periods such as February, May and November – Jones, who has worked at WWBT 14 years and as news director three years, said the ratings game is becoming more month-to-month, as news and programming continue to become more immediate through more forms of media.

“We’re getting more specific data, especially demographic data, and that’s good, because it allows us to consistently see where our audience is going,” Jones said. “The audience is constantly changing, with social media, and there are so many ways people can get their news now.”

The station employs about 150 people at its studios at 5710 Midlothian Turnpike. Grinnage would not disclose numbers about the station’s operations or revenues, citing a policy by owner Raycom Media, which is privately held.

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