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November sweeps: Leno, WBAL, and woe is WMAR

The November "sweeps" ratings hold more bad news for WBAL when it comes to Jay Leno and his effect on the NBC affiliate's late local news. And despite a slight bump in some ratings thanks to the arrival of People Meters over the summer, struggling WMAR finds itself as the last place news channel in Baltimore behind WBFF by virtually every measure.

On a week that will mark the departure of anchors Mary Beth Marsden and Terry Owens, after 21 and 17 years, respectively, one can't help but wonder whether it might not make more sense for Baltimore's ABC affiliate to get out of the local news business altogether based on these ratings. (As reported here in stories on their departures under a buyout offer, Marsden anchors the 5,6 and 11 p.m. newcasts, while Owens anchors 5:30 p.m. and reports for the late newscast.)

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The biggest news, which has been reported here in September and October, is the way NBC's ill-advised, cost-cutting move of Leno to a nightly 10 p.m. prime-time spot continues to hammer WBAL's fortunes for network fare at 10 p.m. and its late news at 11 p.m.

WBAL, which use to be neck-and-neck with WJZ at the 11 p.m. newscast, an affilate's most lucrative, is now a distant second to the CBS-owned station. And note what WBFF does at 10 p.m. versus WMAR at 11.

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Here are the 11 p.m. November ratings in households: WJZ (79,000 homes), WBAL (58,900 homes), WMAR (31,800 homes) and WBFF (33,300 homes for its news that airs at 10 p.m.).

Now here are the 11 p.m. figures in adults ages 25 to 54, which is what the demographic that stations actually sell ads based on : WJZ (40,900), WBAL (27,600), WMAR (15,400) and WBFF (24,300 at 10 p.m.).

WBFF also beats WMAR in the morning and at 5:30 p.m. when they are in competition. Most striking is how close WBFF's adult audience for its late news now is to WBAL's thanks to the hit the NBC affiliate has taken post-Leno. WBAL still leads the market at 5 and 6 p.m.


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