Is Jay Leno killing KARE’s 10 p.m. news ratings?

In a word, no.

Despite the Unfunny One’s awful reviews and awful ratings on the coasts, four weeks of Twin Cities data indicates his lousy lead-in is not taking the late news ratings champ down with him.

Locally, among advertiser-coveted 25-to-54-year-olds, Leno’s Monday-Friday numbers are lower than last year’s 9 p.m. fare: from a 4.7 rating/10 share then to 3.9/9 now. (Rating is the percentage of TV-owning households tuned in, share is the percentage with TV turned on.)

That’s a 17 percent ratings drop and a 10 percent share drop — not unexpected, by the way, since Leno was all about saving NBC production dough at the expense of a few ratings points.

The affiliates stood to pay the price, if their cash-cow late local news viewership dropped. But for KARE, long the market leader, that’s not really happening.

Last year, KARE’s 10 p.m. news racked up a 6.7/16, according to Nielsen data. This year? 6.3/15.

That’s a 6 percent ratings and share drop. Not zero, but not double digits. David Crawford, KARE’s general sales manager, calculates last year’s rating at 6.5, not 6.7, which would make the slippage just 3 percent.

Crawford, being the sales guy, chooses to characterize this as “flat,” and I’m inclined to cut him a break. The four-week period — Sept. 14 through Oct. 9 — had a few unique events.

Two that depressed KARE’s numbers: The Vikings’ KSTP-ESPN ratings blowout of the Packers a week ago Monday, and the Twins 11-inning cable-only playoff loss to the Yankees four days later.

On the plus side, Leno’s first week featured huge opening-show numbers and competition against network reruns.

What should have KARE worried? The trend. Here’s how Leno’s rating has tracked week-to-week:

Sept. 14-18 (opening shows): 6.7
Sept. 21-25: 3.3
Sept 28-Oct. 2: 3.2
Oct. 5-9: 2.3

That final week was the one that included Favre and A-Rod. If Week 4 is an aberration and Leno settles in with a low 3, KARE should be thrilled. According to TVNewsCheck, Leno is averaging around a 2 in New York and Los Angeles.  Conventional wisdom, which seems borne out, says Leno does better in the Midwest than the coasts.

It will be interesting to see this week’s numbers. But if Week 4’s drop is a trend, KARE may start taking it on The Chin.

Crawford embraces long view. Leno will be live 46 weeks a year, far more than competing shows. Even if his numbers slip somewhat, a 52-week comparison might show no drop at all. Still, I think competitors will welcome erosion now, whatever next summer brings.

Ratings don’t necessarily correlate to journalistic quality, of course. But the winners could get more resources (or more likely, fewer cuts) for their brand of coverage, while the losers’ losses could be huge in the new economic reality. Then again, parent Gannett has whacked KARE pretty good this year regardless of the ratings.

NBC’s prime-time numbers sucked last year, too, so even if Leno stabilizes, KARE has locked-in lousiness. I’m a little new to the ratings racket, but it’s astounding how well KARE’s 10 p.m. news builds on its awful lead-ins — gaining more than 2 ratings points on average, something no competitor comes close to duplicating.

But you can’t defy gravity forever, can you? We may soon find out.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by John O'Sullivan on 10/16/2009 - 07:53 am.

    Did you see 30 Rock throw it to Leno last night? NBC is really getting desperate. The running theme in the episode was giving the people what they want. Jenna went country by performing the intro theme song to NBC’s off-season tennis coverage (the only sport NBC has left), so when Liz and Jack (Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin) were watching the completed music video at the end of the episode (over the credits), Fey says “I can’t believe I actually liked that,” then Baldwin turns toward the camera and says “Sometimes you just have to give the people what they want. Ladies and gentlemen, Jay Leno.” Cut to Leno saying “Thanks guys!” then a line of dancers dressed in the same costumes from the 30 Rock music video reprised the song from the 30 Rock episode.

    (Wow, that was much to verbose.) Point of the story is this: NBC is resorting to tricking people into watching Leno by making them think it’s an extension of 30 Rock. Very weird.

  2. Submitted by karl anderson on 10/16/2009 - 08:52 am.

    Who watches local news anymore? I haven’t watched it in years (since I got my Blackberry), so this is a none-issue.

    What Leno should be worried about is the embarrassingly bad shows he is putting together. God awful!

  3. Submitted by karl anderson on 10/16/2009 - 08:54 am.


    Television is in a freefall. It won’t take long before broadcast and cable disappear, and are replaced with webvision. Try! It is awesome. And so is Netflix.

    Expect more gimmicks in the future.

  4. Submitted by Mark Mershon on 10/16/2009 - 09:51 am.

    My question to Karl would be, were does Hulu get there content? Where does the content you get on your blackberry come from? Without local Newscasts, and newspapers, there is not content to receive from these sites.

  5. Submitted by karl anderson on 10/16/2009 - 10:14 am.


    For news, I access the Strib’s mobile and the NY Times. Maybe CNN. They are sponsored by ads.

    HULU is a better vehicle for advertising. I can access any tv show I want when I want. I understand I will have to see an advertisement. However, I will see the show when I want to see it. They can customize the ad to the demo watching the show. I pay comcast $90/month and all I get are a bunch of crap.

    No need really for TiVo. The barrage of tv ads forces people to use TiVo. With HULU, there is an option of one big ad at the beginning or a couple during the show. Works sweet.

    Netflix allows commercial free, but they have to pay the producers of content directly.

    Television has emerged into an inefficient deliver of content. That was my point.

  6. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/16/2009 - 12:43 pm.

    I have worked in Broadcasting for 27 years. I can tell one thing, the networks don’t need local stations anymore. There are far better ways to distrubute the network content as we know it today. Sharing revenue with local stations, competing with Tivo, competing with on-demand, competing with less viewers, all point to a new direction for the networks. As far as the local newscasts are concerned, how can markets like ours justify 5 stations competing for viewers? They can’t for much longer. If advertisers want a certain age group, they can pick KARE and leave out the others. What we need in this market is a shake-out. Those stations who can’t compete in the local news arena need to close-up shop.

    Local news operations already are cutting to the bone and the lack of quality is starting to show. Cutting high profile and priced talent has already begun. The I-Team is gone, documentaries are gone, consumer reporters are gone. What we are left with are stations sending duplicate news crews to the same top-stories. Consolidation of news coverage is already being discussed.

    For the viewer in search of good local tv news, it just is not there anymore. What we are left with is Frank and his wife doing stories on a good sex life, rasing children, and talking marriage. There is no time, staff, budget, or audience in high numbers to dig deeper into stories that count.

    Local television news is going to go away a lot faster then a good local newspaper that can deliver good news coverage on the web and include video like local television does. And, this kind of content will be digested by the reader/viewer when and how they want it.

    I am afraid local news has shot themselves in the foot. Local television used to be a source for breaking news. News that happens during the course of the program. But, five stations rushing to the scene is plain and simply wrong. Viewership is down, fragmented, age driven, and lacking strong journalism. And, if the story is important you will only see on local station cut into the network programming because, they fear stepping-on the network. The days of WCCO switching back and forth from CBS and CNN’s war coverage are a thing of the past, Dave Moore would roll in his grave given all these developments.

    I have an idea! If one local station would return to high quality local coverage, we might have a reason to have more than one player at night for news. Long live print journalism. But now it to needs to become only an e-paper.

  7. Submitted by antony cliffton on 10/16/2009 - 05:49 pm.

    Is the local FOX affiliate considered News or entertainment?

  8. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/16/2009 - 08:39 pm.

    That statement from you (Antony Cifford) really points to what the crux of the issue really is. What we need is newscasts free from consultants that do not have a grip on what is happening. WCCO used to be a very respected news organization that knew what was right and good. Their ratings, reaserch, and at the time management had been able to market themselves as being a stand-out. Today, this is not the case. What is entertainment and what is news? I wish I had the answer to question.

  9. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 10/17/2009 - 08:33 am.

    I’ll admit that I expected Leno to do a little better than he has. But after recording/watching the show for a couple of weeks, I have moved on.

    I would be interested to see if Leno will impact Conan’s numbers long-term (and am not clear if the 10:35 show helps/hurts the previous newscast).

    I have not watched a local newscast for a couple of years now. As pointed out by a previous poster, the news was taken out a long time ago. Pretty sad.

  10. Submitted by B Maginnis on 10/17/2009 - 03:37 pm.

    Only 60% of the TV homes in this market have cable.


  11. Submitted by antony cliffton on 10/22/2009 - 05:16 pm.

    Wow, lots to talk about here.
    I’m one of the 40% without cable.
    100 channels of house flipping bachelorette reality swapping star dancing is something I can surely do without. Especially when basic cable went from $25 to $70 in the last 10 years.
    Comcast is one of the many businesses handed a monopoly by the very laws enacted to prevent them. When they bought out Time Warner’s cable business in this area the quality of cable and internet service cratered and the prices skyrocketed. If you want Comcast internet (without cable TV) it’s about $65-67 a month for standard service which is way higher than any market I can think of or the $42 it was with Time Warned before the sale. Heaven help them if they buy NBC or another content creator. As they say on NBC’s SNL “Happy birthday Jesus, I hope you like crap”.
    Sitting in tube in London I saw an advert for 20Mb/sec internet for 14£ per month back when the exchange rate was around $1.70 to the Brtish £. 3 times faster at less than half the price. Their DSL technology is also light years ahead of ours in speed and quality.

    As for the quality of FOX and the other locals, that’s a ‘whole nuther’ post! A guy’s got to eat sometime….

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