Record Temperatures, Record Ratings

Ratings, not surprisingly, rise as temperatures fall. Many markets struck by the brutal cold this week are seeing "Super-Bowl-like" viewing, as one TV scribe puts it, for their weather-related newscasts.

Writes Duane Dudek of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: (opens in new tab)

Overnight ratings suggest more than 70,000 extra television homes tuned in to the 5 p.m. newscasts on all four [Milwaukee] affiliates Monday, compared with the average number during the November ratings sweeps period.

Viewers presumably tuned in for extreme weather coverage as the windchill neared 50 degrees below zero. Combined 5 p.m. ratings were a 27.9 compared, with a 19.9 in November.

WISN-TV (Channel 12) saw a four-point jump at 5, and WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) a three-point jump. 

It's a similar story in Buffalo, writes Alan Pergament of the Buffalo News:

With the snow and cold delivering a captive audience to local television stations, it isn't surprising that the ratings for Monday night's newscasts were the highest they've been in years.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Channel 4 [WIVB] won with a 19.3 rating to Channel 2's [WGRZ] 16.8 rating. Channel 7 [WKBW] had a 9.4 rating. The collective rating of 45.5 means is a Super Bowl-like figure that means 45.5 percent of area households were tuned in to the news.

One local researcher said he couldn't recall those kind of numbers delivered in years.

At 11 p.m., Channel  2 won with a 13.8 rating to Channel 4's 13.0 and Channel 7's 6.4. The combined rating was 33.2, meaning about one-third of area households were tuned in.

In Indianapolis, meanwhile, the polar vortex had to compete with the NFL's Colts for viewers, reports the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Writes Chris O'Malley:

WRTV Channel 6, which usually trails in newscast ratings, stayed with storm coverage pretty much from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.  At 5 p.m., WRTV had a rating of 9.2 versus 3.9 for WTHR and 3.0 for WISH.

Once WISH finished with football about 4:30 p.m., “then everybody started sampling (the stations). We were the big beneficiary," said Paul Montgomery, director of audience development at WRTV.

Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., WXIN-TV Fox 59 had the attention of nearly 1-in-3 local TV households, as it broadcast the Green Bay-San Francisco game.

Of course, when news ratings leader WTHR began its 6 p.m. newscast, it took the lead among stations airing news, with a 13-percent rating. Still, WRTV was a close second, at an 11-percent rating.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.