By Alan Pergament
Where are local news viewers going from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.?
That's the question after looking at ratings for the first week of the November sweeps.
Local television news experienced a big ratings drop during those time periods compared to a year ago.
At 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m, the combined ratings for Channels 2, 4 and 7 were down 20 percent from the average for the entire sweeps a year ago and more than that compared to the first week of the November, 2012 sweeps.
Of course, November, 2012 was a very busy news month, with Western New York dealing with nasty weather for one night associated with Hurricane Sandy, the nation re-electing President Barack Obama and Republican Chris Collins winning a congressional seat over Democrat Kathy Hochul.
The 2012 sweep also started a week earlier in late October.
The biggest loser in the first week of this November's sweeps was last November's biggest winner -- first place Channel 2. It is in a much closer battle with Channel 4.
Channel 2 averaged an 8.6 at 5 p.m. for the first week of this November's sweeps, down from a 10.7 a year ago for the entire sweep and down from a 13.0 for the first week of the November, 2012 sweep that included a big number for the weather story.
Second place Channel 4 averaged a 7.1 at 5 p.m., slipping a rating point from the entire sweep a year ago and 1.7 points from the first week of the November, 2012 sweep. For the first week of the November sweep of 2013, Channel 4 closed the gap with Channel 2 to 1.5 points from 2.6 points a year ago.
Third place Channel 7 lost about one third of its audience at 5 p.m. compared to the entire November, 2012 sweep and only averaged a 2.4 rating for the half hour for this last year's first week, down from a 3.7 a year ago.
At 5:30 p.m., first place Channel 2 averaged an 8.1 rating for the first week of this year's sweeps, down from 10.5 from the first week of the entire November, 2012 sweep and from the first week.
Second place Channel 4 averaged a 7.2, down from an 8.6 for the first week of the November, 2012 and from an 8.4 for the entire sweep.
Third place Channel 7 averaged a 3.6, down from a 4.4 from its average for the entire November, 2012 sweeps.
Once again, Channel 4 closed the ratings gap at 5:30 p.m. significantly from a year ago. It is within a point of Channel 2 for the first week of this November's sweeps after trailing by more than two points a year ago for the entire sweep.
The early evening news results for the first week probably should concern the local stations, which get about 40 percent of their revenue from local news and local programming.
Local TV news appears to need a big news story -- perhaps from the weather gods -- to get close to its audience levels of last year's November sweeps.
While we're talking ratings, the Buffalo Bills' 23-10 loss to Pittsburgh Sunday had a 36.1 rating on Channel 4, making it the third highest-rated Bills game of the season behind a loss to ther New York Jets (39.7) and a win over Miami (36.7). Imagine how high it would have been if the game had been more competitive.
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