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Nielsen: Big audience for Baltimore snow coverage

While you can come to different conclusions based on how you slice and dice the Nielsen ratings for local TV snow coverage, two things are clear: There were a lot of Baltimore area residents glued to their sets Saturday when the storm hit the hardest, and WBAL and WJZ dominated in the ratings when they were on.

Without playing the spin, counterspin, station-to-station games, here is what matters about the ratings: The average quarter-hour audience on Saturday when WBAL, WJZ and WMAR were head to head was about 230,00 viewers. That's a big audience on a Saturday.

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Usually, the audience is a little more than about one-fifth that size. And it demonstrates once again that for all the change in media habits, TV still has a tremendous hold on huge numbers of news consumers when it counts.

But beyond that, things get more complicated and this is where the racking and stacking among stations starts.

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Both WBAL and WJZ started at 5 a.m. with continuous coverage. WMAR started at 7 a.m. WBFF offered only cut-ins during the day.

If you look at the total viewers for the average quarter hour when the three stations were head-to-head, here is what you come up with.

From 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., WJZ had an audience of 104,400, while WBAL had 96,000. From the period of 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., WMAR, averaged 31,100 viewers.

But while WJZ left continuous coverage at 1 p.m., WBAL and WMAR continued. And if you take the audience for all of WBAL's continuous coverage Saturday, which ran until 4:40 p.m., it tops WJZ's continuous coverage by a margin of 107,000 to 104,400. WMAR's audience also grows when you look at its total time of continuous coverage (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to 45,000.

So make your own call on which set of numbers you want. I think you can look at them either way, but you see how close WBAL and WJZ were.

But there is some good news for WMAR in the way its audience grew. And if you look at the 6 p.m. newscast Saturday, the news is even better for WMAR. It drew an audience of 90,000 viewers. WBAL, meanwhile, drew 168,000 at at 6 p.m., while WJZ drew 126,000.

WBFF drew 85,000 for its 10 p.m. newscast Saturday.

I know, that's a lot of numbers to digest. But you should have seen what I started with.

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