As the TV Turns, Change is Coming

This woman thought it was OK to host her teenager's party in PRP

You’d think there’d be plenty of local news watching going on during the just-concluded July TV ratings period. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t wait to see what bizarre crime will be perpetrated next. Today is just run-of-the-mill stuff — a 40-year-old woman in PRP who hosted a party for her teenage son and 150 of his friends in which pot and alcohol were present; the basic “cocaine in an inmate’s underwear” story; a guy who may or may not have had help from an employee as he held up a Jeffersontown hotel for $194; a Park Hill shooting in the middle of a hot day.

Every day there are stories like this leading newscasts, and crime fatigue is setting in. Since news operations are increasing the number of hours they are on the air, and hiring in many cases, it’s good that they’re also covering important issues, including what’s going on with the public schools, the Governor’s race and city government. WLKY’s Duane Pohlman had perhaps the most impactful story of the sweeps chronicling the actual cost to taxpayers for busing all those kids around town. And yesterday there was plenty of good reporting on the Museum Plaza story.

Since Nielsen was keeping track of what you were watching, let’s look for some trends and surprises in the numbers. Can you guess, for example, what time slot posted the highest number for any local station? How about “What is Jeopardy?” every weeknight at 7:30. And if you were wondering why the mis-guided managers at WBKI canceled the Louisville Live morning show — consider it barely pushed the needle above zero in the Nielsens.

In local news, it was another good sweeps period for WLKY, which maintained its huge margin in late news over WHAS and WAVE.  WLKY and WHAS were very close in the all-important 5-7 p.m. time slot, with WHAS edging above WLKY at 6 after trailing by a similar margin at 5. WDRB’s 6:30 newscast gained ground on the network newcasts, and even beat all three one evening. The 6:30 program showed a significant jump in the time period for WDRB from a year ago, when it was running Everybody Loves Raymond.

I’ll be watching the 4 o’clock hour closely in September, when Oprah is replaced by a local newscast on WHAS. In July, reruns of Oprah got half the audience WLKY did for a soap opera, while WAVE’s airing of Ellen did about the same as Oprah. WDRB’s newscast beat them both, but seems to be the most likely to be hurt by the new WHAS entry.

Don’t think there’s anything but optimism over in Bill Lamb’s camp, however. This fall it will likely be making gains at 9, when it begins airing Regis and Kelly, which has been #1 at 9 at WHAS;  followed by the Millionaire game show at 10, which was also #1 on WHAS. At 3, WDRB gets Dr. Phil, now the #1-rated syndicated talk show, from WAVE. WDRB will ship the dismal 700 Club to its WMYO station. It’s morning newscast nearly beat WAVE’s at 6, and its number goes way up at 7 when it competes with the other stations’ national shows. And later today, it will announce a new morning c0-host, replacing Barry Bernson, who’s retiring.

In the mornings at 6, the only time period in which four stations air local news at the same time, WHAS edged WLKY, with WAVE and WDRB relatively close. Things are changing in the fall at 9, when WHAS replaces Regis & Kelly with Great Day Live! with Terry Meiners and Rachel Platt.

WAVE hasn’t announced, or told me, what it plans to do in its 3 p.m. time slot vacated by Dr. Phil, or if it has any plans to make changes to avert its regular third-place finish in news. The station has announced the launch of a weekend morning news program and the hiring of a new weather personality, Lauren Jones.