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CBS driving viewers to local news

Sep 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

CBS’s almost single-minded dedication to developing and launching new 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. (ET) dramas on four nights of its schedule this season appeared to pay off with initial growth for CBS affiliates’ late newscasts and the network’s “Late Show With David Letterman” last week.
As of the middle of last week, CBS had firmly established three of the most-watched freshman dramas among total viewers in “CSI: Miami” (23.1 million), “Without A Trace” (16.2 million) and “Presidio Med” (8.7 million) to contribute increased audience flow to late local newscasts.
Citing initial metered market ratings data from Nielsen Media Research, David Poltrack, CBS’s executive VP of research and planning, said CBS affiliate newscasts in 53 overnight markets improved 17 percent year to year (from a 6.5 rating to 7.5 rating average in households) for the first four days last week (Sept. 23 to 26).
For the CBS owned-and-operated stations in 15 metered markets, a 6.5 rating average in the overnight households translated to an 11 percent increase from the year-ago period (at a 5.8 rating). For nearly the last decade or so the CBS O&Os, in particular, have traditionally finished second or third in their markets to the NBC- and ABC-owned stations because of the latter pair’s historically stronger 10 p.m. hour lead-ins.
“Once we get more conclusive national data in, I’m expecting that we’re going to see good increases in our core adults demos [25 to 54 and 50-plus], but also in the adults 18 to 49 and 18 to 34 demographics,” Mr. Poltrack said. “I’m basing that growth on assumptions that we’re going to continue bring in some healthy newscast increases because of our overall stronger performance in the closing hour of prime. It’s quite exciting, but it’s still early in the game.”
The ongoing ratings strength of late local newscasts can also play an integral role in bringing audience flow into the late-night talk shows.
Through the first four days of last week, “Late Night With David Letterman” averaged a 3.8 rating in the metered markets, exactly on par with its comparable year-ago overnight average. But, Mr. Poltrack said, the current number is holding up well, considering last year’s ratings for “Letterman” were “spiked” due to heightened post-9/11 viewer interest for the New York-based talk show. Over the same span last week, “Tonight Show” averaged a 5.3 rating, only a shade off its 5.3 rating in the year-ago week.