With all the attention paid to mergers and acquisitions, hirings and firings, and much else in the local television business, the people who actually deliver the news every day on-air don’t always get the kind of industry spotlight that viewers at home might expect. Local talent is instrumental in the fortunes of any station, and with the proliferation of social media, the relationship between talent and viewers can be 24/7, cross-platform and enduring. Viewers might not know the specific call letters of a station, but they know the names of the anchors they spend time with every morning, evening and/or night.
For these reasons, B&C has decided to shine the light on local anchor teams with this special report, which singles out the top-rated local newscast in different time periods in various market sizes across the country. Guided by detailed analysis by television ratings expert A.J. Katz, we examined Nielsen ratings for the many thousands of local newscasts in the calendar year 2015. We took the highest average rated newscast in three key dayparts—morning, evening and late local—in seven different market sizes picked to show the full breadth of American viewing and to create more viable apples-to-apples comparisons. The markets are DMAs 1-10; 11-20; 21-40; 41-60; 61-100; 101-150; and 151+.
Our findings yielded some notable insights and even a few quirks. The top morning, evening and late local newscasts cover markets in the Midwest, Northeast and Deep South—but none air west of San Antonio, Texas. (Could it be the weather?) Gray Television had the most stations of any company with five anchor teams, followed by three operated by Tribune Broadcasting. Of the 21 newscasts, eight are from ABC affiliates, including all three from DMAs 1-10, followed by six on CBS stations, five on NBC stations and two on Fox stations. In addition, two stations had multiple top-rated anchor teams. WNEP, the Scranton, Pa. ABC affiliate owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting and operated by Tribune Broadcasting, notched top marks for morning and evening local newscasts for DMAs 41-60. WTOK, Gray Television’s ABC affiliate for Meridian, Miss., had the No. 1 morning and late anchor teams within the 151+ DMA group. —JK
MARKET: Chicago (DMA No. 3)
PROGRAM/TIME:ABC 7 Eyewitness News at 10 p.m.
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 3.4
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Kathy Brock, Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton; sports director Mark Giangreco; chief meteorologist Jerry Taft.
IN THE NEWS: Illinois elected new governor but couldn’t pass budget; Rahm Emanuel won a second term as mayor; A 17-year-old boy was gunned down by a Chicago police officer.
IN THEIR WORDS: “The five of us, Ron, Mark, Jerry, Cheryl and I have been together on the 10 p.m. team since 2003,” Brock says. “We have a familiarity and ease that is palpable and that our audience trusts. And that spawns tangible benefits. When a story is breaking, when there are no scripts, few facts and things are happening rapid fire, our collective knowledge, those years of experience together are instrumental in helping us get it right. WLS has been a powerhouse for 35 years. Chicagoans like to get their news from people they feel comfortable with, familiar faces. And on that, we deliver. WLS just built a state-of-the-art new news set that debuted fall 2015. It gives us the ability, in a highly visual way, to incorporate social media, weather technology and viewer data into impactful storytelling, which is what we have always done best in the market.”
MARKET: Philadelphia (DMA No. 4)
PROGRAM/TIME:Action News 6 p.m.
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 3.3
ANCHOR TEAM: Anchor Jim Gardner; chief weathercaster/meteorologist Cecily Tynan; sports director Ducis Rodgers.
IN THE NEWS: An Amtrak train crash in May claimed eight lives and injured hundreds more; the Pope visited the U.S. in September, including a two-day swing through Philadelphia.
IN THEIR WORDS: “I’ve been asked for decades why I think we are so competitively successful at 6abc and Action News,” Gardner says. “I would like to think that we do well in that context because we simply do a good job covering and telling the news. There is some evidence that viewers trust us, and nothing is more important to us, and to me. There are people who can speak to our ‘success’ better that I can, but it would not surprise me if large numbers of viewers come to us because we’re consistent, reliable, and despite our efforts to be objective, I think we’re also empathic. It’s also essential to respect ‘the story’ and respect our viewers. I think we do that.”
MARKET: Atlanta (DMA No. 9)
PROGRAM/TIME:Channel 2 Action News This Morning
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 3.4
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Fred Blankenship and Linda Stouffer; chief meteorologist Karen Minton; traffic reporter Mark Arum.
IN THE NEWS: During a severe weather season, the station, using StormTracker2HD radar and two choppers, delivered weather and traffic updates every 10 minutes.
IN THEIR WORDS: “WSB is a very special place,” Blankenship says. “We understand our show’s mission, and everyone is passionate about doing their part to meet and exceed the high standards set here. Linda, Karen, Mark and I see the morning as a welcoming door to our audience for the day. Our job is to get them going, plug them in and prepare them for the day ahead. The growth in our ratings shows how teamwork, enthusiasm, passion and consistent execution leads to incredible results.”
MARKET: Detroit (DMA No. 13)
PROGRAM/TIME: Fox 2 News
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 2.8
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Monica Gayle and Huel Perkins; chief meteorologist Rich Luterman; sports director Dan Miller
IN THE NEWS: Flint water crisis; Detroit emerging from biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Our anchor team has been together for nearly two decades,” Gayle says. “We are grateful and honored to have earned that trust. Some of our viewers have grown up watching us, and now their children are watching us. We also do a lot of outreach off-camera with community events. It’s important to get out and meet the people who watch us every day. That personal touch still goes a long way even in this high tech, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram world of ours. As a station, we held water drives, using our dominant morning newscasts to rally our viewers [for Flint]. Through the power of television and social media, we were able to donate 240 tons of bottled water to the people of Flint.”
MARKET: Minneapolis-St. Paul (DMA No. 15)
PROGRAM/TIME:KARE 11 News at 10 p.m.
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 4.4
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Julie Nelson and Randy Shaver; chief meteorologist Belinda Jensen; sports director Eric Perkins
IN THE NEWS: The shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police officer in November sparked protests and debate from groups like Black Lives Matter; station-wide “Monarch Mission” helped to revitalize the monarch butterfly population.
IN THEIR WORDS: “We are in a unique situation where our entire news team likes and respects each other,” Nelson says. “One of the most frequent comments we hear from viewers is, ‘It seems you guys really like each other.’ And we consider that a compliment, because it’s true. Viewers right now, more than anything, want transparency, and we are the same people behind the scenes as we are on TV, and we’ve proven that over the years. We do more in-depth investigative reporting than ever before, and we’ve hired outstanding storytellers which has always been a KARE staple. We’ve also added some of the best photojournalists in the country which only raises the bar even higher for a station that already has a great visual reputation. There’s been a renewed focus on truly serving our community. Our news director, Jane Helmke, has made a point to remind us that this is why we do this job. Like any team, you can’t win unless you ‘buy what the coach is selling’ and that is happening here.”
MARKET: Cleveland (DMA No. 18)
PROGRAM/TIME:Fox 8 News in the Morning
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 3.6
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Wayne Dawson, Kristi Capel and Stefani Schafer; chief meteorologist Dick Goddard; feature reporter Kenny Crumpton
IN THE NEWS: The first Republican presidential debate took place in August at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland; the Cavaliers made a run to the NBA Finals last spring and summer.
IN THEIR WORDS: “We always work to fine-tune our newscast in an attempt to stay fresh and remain ahead of the competition. With that in mind, during the past year we’ve added a second reporter to the morning show mix,” Dawson says. “Also, we decided to do weather and traffic every eight minutes to keep our viewers informed about the two things they are most concerned about in the morning. Finally we added 30 minutes to our show which now starts at 4 a.m. for a total of six hours of news, information and entertainment in the morning, to better serve our viewers who rise very early to begin their day. But that’s not all, next to the fact our viewers love the way we all of us ‘color-coordinate’ our clothes—we’ve been doing this for 15 years. A constant comment people say when referring to the morning show is we seem like family and we feel like part of their family.”
MARKET: Indianapolis (DMA No. 27)
PROGRAM/TIME:13 Eyewitness News (6-6:30 p.m.)
OWNER/AFFILIATION: Dispatch Broadcast Group/NBC
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 5.0
ANCHOR TEAM: Anchors Anne Marie Tierno and John Stehr; meteorologist Angela Buchman; sports anchor Dave Calabro
IN THE NEWS: Jared Fogle raid, plea and sentencing, Richmond Hill explosion verdict, school principal fatal bus accident, Amanda Blackburn murder.
IN THEIR WORDS: “The recent affiliation swap in the market has brought an upheaval in loyal news viewership in Indy over the past year,” says GM Larry Delia. “What we’ve found is brand consistency, newsroom stability and big story ownership is what makes a leader in this market. I’m very proud of our team.”
MARKET: Nashville (DMA No. 29)
PROGRAM/TIME:NewsChannel 5 This Morning (6-7 a.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 5.6
ANCHOR TEAM: Anchors Steve Hayslip and Amy Watson; meteorologist Lelan Statom
IN THE NEWS: January snowstorm (10-plus hours of live coverage); weather impact on local charities and how viewers can help; deadly tornadoes in Perry County; live coverage from early-morning triple murder; daily previews of Erin Andrews trial.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Our viewers’ needs are constantly changing, so we are constantly changing to serve those needs. We raise the bar with our tools and coverage techniques,” says GM Lyn Plantinga. “There is a synergy and work ethic with our team—in front of the camera and behind the scenes—that allows us to keep that edge. Viewers can count on us to respect their time, cover hard news and meet our responsibility as journalists.”
MARKET: San Antonio (DMA No. 32)
PROGRAM/TIME: KSAT12 Nightbeat (10-11 p.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 5.6
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Steve Spriester, Isis Romero and Myra Arthur; meteorologist Steve Browne; sports anchor Greg Simmons
IN THE NEWS: DWI blood-drawing controversy; Iowa caucuses; homelessness; counterfeit products and their sneaky websites; fire at senior citizens home; police body cameras.
IN THEIR WORDS: “We work every day to deliver more local, late-breaking news, more weather, and more information and entertainment,” says GM Phil Lane. “All of our anchors also report on local issues, and have a real connection with the community, they’re not just news readers. Everyone contributes to deliver content that our viewers demand.”
MARKET: Oklahoma City (DMA No. 43)
PROGRAM/TIME: News 9 at 10 (10-10:30 p.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 6.3
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Amanda Taylor and Kelly Ogle; meteorologist David Payne; sports anchor Dean Blevins
IN THE NEWS: Exclusive jail interview with shooter/hostage-taker in local office; UPS driver donates kidney to customer; cop accused/convicted of sexual assaults; severe spring weather.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Viewers respond to our team because we’re real. You can’t fake sincerity, because if people watch you long enough, they’ll eventually see through it,” says Taylor. “The guys I work with are the nicest people. If I had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, I could call any of them and they’d be there without hesitation. I’d like to think the viewers see that sincerity come through as we deliver the news.”
MARKET: Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa. (DMA No. 55)
OWNER/AFFILIATION: Dreamcatcher Broadcasting-owned/Tribune-operated/ABC
PROGRAM/TIME: Newswatch 16 This Morning
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 10.3
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Mindi Ramsey and Tom Williams; meteorologist Joe Snedeker; sports anchor Jim Coles
IN THE NEWS: Morning reporter Ryan Leckey snagged an exclusive interview with a state trooper who had been ambushed and shot on the job; the trooper later took part in a charity campaign put on by the station.
IN THEIR WORDS: “What’s unique to a station like WNEP is trying to keep and hopefully grow our share in a market we already dominate,” Williams says. “We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and offer viewers something different. We like to give people a reason not to miss Newswatch 16 This Morning when there are so many other places people can go to get their information. I think viewers feel a real connection with us because we aren’t afraid to let our guards down. We all like each other and enjoy letting people see another side of us than just the TV personas. It sounds hokey, but many viewers say we are like family to them. I think that’s a big compliment.”
MARKET: Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa. (DMA No. 55)
OWNER/AFFILIATION: Dreamcatcher Broadcasting-owned/Tribune-operated/ABC
PROGRAM/TIME: Newswatch 16
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 10.8
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Marisa Burke and Scott Schaffer; chief meteorologist Tom Clark; sports anchor Jim Coles
IN THE NEWS: When a weather blimp broke free in Maryland and drifted north to the Scranton area in October, dragging behind a cable that was tearing down power lines, Newswatch 16 followed the blimp until it finally came down.
IN THEIR WORDS: “We are all so local to this market,” Schaffer says. “Our 6 p.m. anchor team is comprised of four lifelong Pennsylvanians. We know this area, and its people, and what’s important to them. Interestingly, I’ve worked at WNEP for nearly 17 years, and I am, by far, the least-tenured member of that anchor team. We hope our viewers appreciate the experience and the familiarity.”
MARKET: Charleston-Huntington, W. Va. (DMA No. 67)
PROGRAM/TIME: WSAZ News at 6 (6-6:30 p.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 9.7
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Tim Irr and Amanda Barren; chief meteorologist Tony Cavelier; sports director Keith Morehouse
IN THE NEWS: EMS worker revives near-death heroin addict; testing water systems for lead; man who tried to kill a local escort is killed by her and now suspect in a string of national murders; girl mistakes a Walmart shopper for Santa Claus (14 million views on WSAZ’ Facebook page).
IN THEIR WORDS: “Our team has over 70 years of combined experience in our community. They understand the unique aspects of the towns we serve and know that viewers rely on them for great journalism every night,” says GM Matt Jaquint. “WSAZ has a deep commitment to the communities we serve, and feels a responsibility to make our viewers lives better.”
MARKET: Springfield, Mo. (DMA No. 75)
PROGRAM/TIME: KY3 Ozarks Today (5-8 a.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 7.4
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Maria Neider and Paul Adler; meteorologist Brandon Beck; sports anchor Ned Reynolds
IN THE NEWS: Emmy-winning storm coverage; Finley River record flooding. First in the Ozarks to live-stream newscasts on Periscope and Facebook.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Our trio is known for dominating breaking news and storm coverage in the mornings,” says Neider. “The team has been working together for 10 years and viewers love their chemistry. They’ve done special segments together, ranging from an Olympics challenge and a zip line adventure…to ballroom dancing.”
MARKET: Baton Rouge, La. (DMA No. 93)
OWNER/AFFILIATION: Raycom Media/CBS
PROGRAM/TIME: WAFB 9 News at 10 p.m.
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 9.0
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Donna Britt and Andre Moreau; chief meteorologist Jay Grymes; sports director Steve Schneider
IN THE NEWS: A crew was sent to Washington, D.C. to cover the papal visit; a car crash involving a local teacher brought about the issue of texting and driving.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Donna Britt, my coanchor, has been here 35 years,” Moreau says. “I was the main sports anchor here from 1987 to early 1994. When long-time anchor George Sells, one of the main factors in the rise of WAFB, retired, I was asked to return and fill those shoes and came back after 15 years in other markets in 2008. It’s funny, returning here to work was something that never crossed my mind, but has been the best career decision I’ve ever made. I love and know our city and state and appreciate our viewers. WAFB since about 1990 took over as the prominent ratings leader in Baton Rouge and has held and even strengthened in some cases what has been an overwhelming dominance in the market.”
MARKET: Sioux Falls, S.D. (DMA No. 110)
PROGRAM/TIME:KELOLAND News at 10 (10-10:30 p.m.)
OWNER/AFFILIATION: Media General/CBS
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 10.8
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Sammi Bjelland and Don Jorgensen; chief meteorologist Jay Trobec; sports director Travis Footing
IN THE NEWS: Series on GEAR UP grant money, questionable petition signatures and potentially unsafe conditions at the South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield, daily breaking news, severe weather.
IN THEIR WORDS: “Our dedicated team—many with long-time experience in the community—understands our legacy and what it means to serve our viewers. Our vision has never been clearer and our determination has never been greater. We work hard every day, every week, and on every story to make a difference in KELOLAND,” says GM Jay Huizenga.
MARKET: Macon, Ga. (DMA No. 120)
PROGRAM/TIME:13WMAZ Eyewitness News at 6
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 10.6
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Lori Johnson and Frank Malloy; chief meteorologist Ben Jones; sportscasters Wes Blankenship and Marvin James
IN THE NEWS: Death of Macon-Bibb firefighter; investigation into man who was let out of jail and killed wife; human interest story on Wrightsville, the “friendliest town in the state;” Friday-night tailgating for high school football; Independence Day concert on July 3.
IN THEIR WORDS: “The chemistry between Frank and I is very strong, and viewers are perceptive, they recognize that,” Johnson says. “But it’s not just about Frank and I. We have an incredible team. Most importantly, the viewers are the ones who makes us No. 1. We have a long tradition here of being the No. 1 station. We never take it for granted. We embrace the past legacy laid before us. We have to make sure we’re evolving with the audience, make sure we’re hitting all the viewers we need to. Our motto here at the station is ‘Straight from the Heart.’ Our big thing is connecting with the community. That’s another reason why our team is so strong, why we’re such a leader in this market. Everything we do, not to sound cheesy, is straight from the heart. Even at the core of that is community and that community connection.”
MARKET: Montgomery, Ala. (DMA No. 122)
PROGRAM/TIME:Today in Alabama
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 9.9
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Judd Davis and Tony Terry; meteorologist Eric Snitil; sports director Stephen Gunter
IN THE NEWS: 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March and Bloody Sunday; Gov. Robert Bentley removed Confederate flags from the Capitol grounds in June; 60th anniversary of day Rosa Parks refused to give up seat on bus; Alabama won college football championship game.
IN THEIR WORDS: “We are very blessed to have an awesome morning team,” Davis says. “There are so many people that viewers will never see and they are the brains and muscle behind this show. I always tell people they do all the hard work and we just try not to screw it up. My coanchor and I have worked together now for almost 12 years. We clicked right away. We have supportive management, all the tools and equipment needed to compete and succeed, and the freedom to have fun while working hard at the same time. I stand 100% behind my passion for this station. It really is an awesome place to work. I was supposed to be here 2-4 years and be on my way. Now I don’t see myself ever leaving.”
MARKET: Meridian, Miss. (DMA No. 189)
PROGRAM/TIME:Good Morning Meridian (6-7 a.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 11.4
ANCHOR TEAM: Anchor Andrea Williams; meteorologist Nick Gunter
IN THE NEWS: Segments on exercise, weight loss, travel, cancer prevention; on-site interview with chef at a local resort for special Valentine’s treats; Christmas “Toy-thon” drive for needy children; historic Neshoba County Fair.
IN THEIR WORDS: “WTOK is fortunate to have loyal, trusted personalities such as Andrea and Nick to anchor Good Morning Meridian. Everywhere I go in the community, people stop to tell me how they can’t start their day without the GMM team,” says news director John Johnson.
MARKET: Meridian, Miss. (DMA #189)
PROGRAM/TIME:Newscenter 11 @ 6 (6-6:30 p.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 16.0
ANCHOR TEAM: Coanchors Wade Phillips and Candace Barnette; meteorologist Brian Hutton Jr.; sports anchor Lindsey Hall
IN THE NEWS: Tornado in Collinsville; IHOP restaurant “sinkhole” (a culvert collapse); sports feature recognizing 12 local high school seniors; FBI raid and investigation of a West Alabama sheriff’s office and jail for suspected illegal drug activity.
IN THEIR WORDS: “The team, along with their stable of producers and multimedia journalists, our high traffic digital platforms, and a large, loyal social media following provide a level of service to the community that rivals much larger markets,” says GM Tim Walker. “With reporters in our Philadelphia, Miss., bureau, the state capital of Jackson, and the Gray Television Washington, D.C. bureau, we are able to provide unprecedented coverage of news that impacts the lives of our viewers in the Meridian DMA.”
MARKET: Presque Isle, Maine (DMA No. 206)
PROGRAM/TIME:News Source 8—The Evening Edition (6-6:30 p.m.)
2015 A25-54 DEMO RATING: 20.1
ANCHOR TEAM:Kelly O’Mara, Rene Cloukey, Ted Shapiro
IN THE NEWS: New Presque Isle community center; World Cup Biathlon; Can-Am Sled Dog Races; mild weather challenges for northern Maine’s economy/winter sports; “Throwback Thursdays” celebrating WAGM’s 60th anniversary.
IN THEIR WORDS: “For all of us at WAGM, it’s about community. Getting stories that matter most to the viewers. Meeting them where they are. And the community comes to think of us as family and that keeps them tuning in night after night,” says O’Mara, news director and anchor.
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