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Presidential, mayoral politics in the summer get mixed TV results

By Alan Pergament

This Talkin' TV blog may actually belong in the Politics Now section.

That's because it is time to weigh in on how interested Western New Yorkers were in President Obama's visit to the University at Buffalo a week ago and in Tuesday night's mayoral debate simulcast on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) and WNED-TV (Channel 17).

First, let's address the presidential visit.

You might have expected TV ratings to have been higher than usual for coverage of the presidential visit, even though many potential viewers might have been distracted by trying to get the most out of one of the final days of the summer before school starts.

The TV ratings for the live coverage in late morning and early afternoon when the president arrived and spoke about education were up significantly from normal daytime viewing of talk shows, with Channel 4 and Channel 2 in a statistical tie from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

However, that didn't translate into higher viewership for most regular newscasts.

Channel 2 won by a landslide over Channel 4 for the 5 p.m. and 5: 30 p.m. newscasts. Its ratings in that hour were slightly higher than they were in July, while Channel 4’'s were lower than they were in July.  Channel 2 also won by a closer margin at 6 p.m. with ratings slightly below the normal range.  Channel 7 was in its customary third place during all of those telecasts.

At 10 p.m., Channel 4's newscast on WNLO won by a landslide over Channel 2's newscast on WUTV. It also won by a narrow margin at 11 p.m. with a rating below the July average. Channel 2's second place 11 p.m. rating also was lower than its July average.

Now let's address interest in the mayoral debate held Tuesday.

The post-debate analysis on Channel 2 after Tuesday's mayoral debate from Democrat Paul Tokasz and Republican Tom Reynolds suggested that Republican Sergio Rodriguez benefitted the most because his visibility improved. They opined that Bernie Tolbert, the challenger in the Democratic primary to Mayor Byron Brown, didn't improve his chances of winning.

The predicted Sergio surge assumed a lot of viewers and potential voters were watching. By summer standards, the debate did pretty well. The debate received a 4 rating on Channel 2, which is equivalent to about 25,000 Western New York homes. It got an additional 1.4 rating on Channel 17 for another 9,000 homes. The collective 5.4 rating is decent but it is still much lower than what 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. evening newscasts averaged on Channel 2 and Channel 4 in July.

To put viewership in further perspective, the debate finished in second place in its prime time slot to a rerun of the popular "NCIS" on Channel 4, which had a rating that was close to double that of the debate. However, the debate did defeat reality shows on Channel 29 (Fox), Channel 7 (ABC) and Channel 23 (CW).

Still, it isn't immediately clear how many of those 34,000 homes watching lived in Buffalo, where one has to live to vote. Besides, the analysis ignored the fact that Rodriguez is a Republican who has virtually no chance to win because any Democrat has a huge advantage in registered voters.

It was somewhat amusing to hear all the praise for Rodriguez. Over the hour, I kept thinking that many potential viewers who might have heard his whiny voice for the first time couldn't envision listening to it for four years if he actually won and that it might overwhelm his content. Four minutes might be tough enough. Or four seconds. 

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Television | TV news
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