Thursday, October 27, 2011

NewsFix: How are ratings for KIAH 39's anchorless news?

"A radically different approach to local TV News is being planned..."

With that opening sentence written in the Imaginator job description, NewsFix was brought into our consciousness July 2010. So what has happened to the KIAH 39 Tribune anchorless newscast in the six plus months since its debut?

I really haven't written much about NewsFix since it went on the air. After working at KIAH before NewsFix's launch, I felt I knew too much about it and wanted some distance before really blogging about it. Clearly a news program billed as "revolutionary" and a reinvention of "the 80's rooted, focus grouped, yuppie anchors and a news desk, super doppler ultra weather style" should be given some attention.

September marked the six month marker of the NewsFix era. In August, I obtained KIAH 39's 9pm monthly ratings from July 2009 to August 2011 (more on the 5pm below). However, I do not have the September 2011 9pm ratings.

First, let's go back to the 9pm news ratings pre-NewsFix. From July 2009 to August 2010, KIAH's 9pm news had a monthly rating of anywhere from a 1.1 share to a 2.0 according to Nielsen, the company that tracks TV ratings. I would love to take credit for this next part - from September to December 2010 (while myself and the other freelance reporters were employed there), the ratings started to trend up. In November, the 9pm rated a 2.1, then a 3.3 in December. Shout out to executive producer Perry Pace and assignments manager Joe Segura for that and of course the entire staff too.

However there was a downward trend in the ratings starting in January 2011 as more and more resources left the newscast for the oncoming NewsFix.

For the month of March (NewsFix debuted at the end of that month), the 9pm monthly average was 1.1. April went down to 1.0. May down to 0.9. Then we saw growth to a 1.0 in June and July. August saw another jump to 1.2. Unfortunately I don't have the ratings for September.

I also got word from a source at KIAH that one day in mid-October, "NewsFix had the highest ratings in Houston at 5pm for the 18-49 demographic." That's the demo that advertisers like.

So ratings are going back up to and sometimes ahead of the former newscast. From a business standpoint, this must be a win for Tribune and KIAH. As everyone knows, NewsFix ditches the standard positions of anchors, reporters, weather and sports talent. So if the station has cut those salaries out of the equation and is building up to pre-NewsFix ratings levels (when it was paying all of those people plus their benefits), the accountants must be happy.

Since the show's debut, we've seen the introduction of new segments like "The Fixer" and "Class Acts," plus the addition of morning newscast Eye Opener with local news from Mia Gradney.

I'm not going to sit there and critique the show, obviously the format is not for everyone, but there is an audience finding it. If you don't like it, there are plenty of standard newscasts on the air in Houston to watch. I have noticed NewsFix viewers talking positively about it on Twitter over the last few months.

Before NewsFix's debut, I heard a lot of concern about what it was trying to do from people at the other Houston stations. They saw the potential writing on the wall if an anchorless format catches on. While I don't subscribe to Tribune's marketing hype that NewsFix will change the face of TV news, I do potentially see it catching on in certain markets as a way for low performing stations to try something else while attempting to help the balance sheet in these rough economic times.

I'll close with this thought. NewsFix changed a lot from the demo show that was put together in 2010. If you think NewsFix is edgy now, you should have seen the demo. Here is an article that describes what was in it.

KIAH 39 declined comment for this post.

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