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.

KIAH 39 News: The last days in photo


  1. I still can't bring myself to watch NewsFix. It is a different concept (maybe even an underrated concept), but I just get with it. Even the lowly-rated CW 39 News was better for me. People do watch NewsFix, though; and who am I to tell someone different? Hardest to believe is that NewsFix has been on for more than half a year as of this post. I still just can't regularly watch NewsFix, Mike McGuff. Just can't. Haven't seen a full installment since NewsFix's debut.

  2. What a piece of ADD crap! Who wants to see a "canned" newscast. It should not even be called news. If I want to watch stale commentary and lame video clips I'll watch TMZ, at least they they have that that cute blond guy. And who is this Grego guy?? Looks like an escaped prisoner. Sorry WB, stick to reruns of family Guy...

  3. All the news is 3 or more days old except for the beginning. Just not somewhere to go for the "current" news.

  4. Funny how management at 39 never wants to comment on anything. Had they put all the resources into their newscast that was doing better (3.3 rating in December!?) who knows how far it could have grown? It's odd how that growth corresponded with the departure of the previous news manager who came up such great ideas as the "let's go to a bar and talk about drinking and happy hour" segments, the top stories of the day counted down BACKWARD so the best story was almost at the end of the hour, let's make the anchors not wear suits or ties anymore, let's only do stories interesting to women aged 18-25 and so on. It's also interesting to note all those ideas were tried inside of a month's time. 39 should be a study in incompetent management and lost opportunities.

  5. I don't know what ratings you are looking at - but in the demo the advertisers really do care about, 25-54, both Newsfix and the morning show they have gets hash marks most of the time.

  6. I keep hearing over and over from the young demographic that they get their news from Twitter and Facebook. That content has to come from somewhere. A show like Newsfix throws out all the prejudices of the internet and embraces social media news.

    If you look at the Belo news site or it's a race to see who can have more content in their home page.

    Newsfix isn't perfect but I love to see the passion of the people still there commuted to make it successful.

  7. NewsFix hasn't had hash marks in any demo. Get your facts straight.

  8. I disagree with the comment that Grego looks like an escaped prisoner... He looks like most radio personalities I know. The tattoos make him appear like he may have spent a night or two in a drunk tank sometime during his life, like most ROCK STARS do, but not an escaped prisoner; c'mon people...

    The way I see it, you can get your old-style news reporting from Greg Hurst, or the next generation of news from Grego. I'll tell you right now, Greg Hurst, and traditional news broadcasts are always going to win the battle in the old folks homes and with ultra conservative tight asses who hate anything 'edgy'. Grego and NewsFix are winning over the new generation! Most viewers of NewsFix didn't watch the news before NewsFix. Only zombies are capable of watching the same format day in and day out, KTRK to see it in dark blue, KHOU to watch the same thing in light blue.

    The days are numbered for most all television news jobs, it'll be extinct within 20 years. We are moving into days dominated by Netflix and internet TV, where people get to watch what they want and when. Nobody is going to DVR the KHOU nightly news, because great grandpa hasn't figured out how to yet. But people are going to want their NewsFix, Grego may just be the last news man left standing when it all goes down.

  9. In October NewsFix has less than 0.5 rating in both 18-49 and 25-54, which rounds down to ZERO.
    I love how they point out that on ONE DAY the 5p had a good # in 18-49, but doesn't mention that 2-3 days a week they get hash marks in the key demos. I have my facts straight.

  10. Total waste of the eye candy that is Mia Gradney! Hopefully she'll migrate to another local station.


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