"Continuous measurement is something we really, really would
like to stress because the more data you can get in, the more exact your ratings are going to be," Kratz says. "But we really have to get a general consensus from all our clients on that. It's really up in the air."
Newscasts from Bangor's Big Three network affiliates are the
most-watched programs in the Bangor market. In May, the three
stations' 6 p.m. week-day newscasts were watched by about 44
percent of all TV households in the market, or by 77 percent of
households that were watching television at 6 p.m.
Like most markets, newscasts in the Bangor market provide the
most fierce competition among stations. WLBZ has run print ads that say, "Every day more people get their news from News Center than any other television news organization in the state!" and "More people get their news on WLBZ News Center 2 than anywhere else in eastern and central Maine."
But what WLBZ doesn't say is it counts viewers who watch its
Portland sister station's News Center (WCSH, Channel 6), which is
tops in the much larger Portland market. The Portland market has
345,000 television households compared to Bangor's 127,000.
Hiltz says WLBZ's claim is misleading and unprofessional, but
"It's not misleading in the slightest," Horan says. "We take
ownership in those newscasts the same way Portland takes ownership in those newscasts."
WABI's 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts won all three
sweeps this past season. In May, more people watched WABI's 6 p.m. newscast than News Center and WVII combined, with a 44 share, followed by WLBZ (25) and WVII (8). A share is the percentage of households watching television that watched a particular program.
Despite a strong showing at 6 p.m., WABI's newscast was off by 3 share points from May 1996. WLBZ was also off its May 1996
showing by 3 points. WVII's news, on the other hand, was up 4 points.
"People are finally giving us a look," WVII's Paquette says. "I think we're promoting enough so people at least are giving us a look-see, and some people are staying."
The race was a lot closer for the 5:30 p.m. newscast, though.
WABI had a 23 share while WLBZ had a 21 share. WVII finished third with a 13 share.
Paquette says it's not unusual for viewers who watch the 5:30
newscasts to switch stations for the 6 o'clock news. "A lot of it
has to do with habit. People feel comfortable with a newscast. A
lot of people, over the years, have watched Channel 5. And Channel 5 has dominated this market for a long time."
The media often talk about which programs win the most
households. But what really counts isn't so much how many people
are watching but who is watching.
WVII's "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" had shares of 33 and 32 respectively in May, beating WLBZ's syndicated re-runs of "Home Improvement" (25) and "Seinfeld" (25). But the Bangor market is made up of older viewers, and the 50-and-older audience that "Wheel" and "Jeopardy!" attract isn't as important to advertisers as the younger audience for "Home Improvement" and "Seinfeld."
"'Wheel' and 'Jeopardy!' can win the households all they want," Hiltz says. "But we don't want those shows."
Advertisers are most interested in reaching people ages 18-49, especially women between the ages of 25 and 54. "These women tend to be either in the work force or they're starting to buy things," Hiltz says. Also, women watch more television than men.
Because consumers are watching "Home Improvement," advertisers are willing to pay more to air their ads on that program than on the higher household-rated "Wheel."
Hiltz ran "Entertainment Tonight" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" last season. Both shows were failures. In May, "ET" had an 8 share. "Fresh Prince" had a 6 share. WABI has since deep-sixed the shows in favor of running "classic" episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
"Home Improvement" and "Seinfeld" are in their second year on
WLBZ, but both shows' ratings have remained steady. Hiltz says it's puzzling that people are more interested in seeing repeats rather than watching a fresh edition of "Entertainment Tonight," but he's not surprised.
"That is what's going to happen," he says. "('Home Improvement' and 'Seinfeld') get a lot of buzz. You can go to the water cooler at work and share a few ha-ha-has."
Now that the dust has settled from the 1996-97 season, local
programming directors have to decide what they're going to do for
WABI has already picked up a few new shows for the fall. The
station will be showing syndicated re-runs of "The X-Files" one
night a week, but no decision has been made on the night or time.
Fans of "Due South," which ran for one season on CBS a few years
ago, will be happy to know the show will return in syndication to WABI with new shows, as the program is now showing on Canadian network CBC.
Two new syndicated shows will also debut on WABI: "Gene
Rodenberry's Earth: Final Conflict" and a new Martha Stewart
WVII will keep "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" in their
current spots and will add "Grace Under Fire" at 5 p.m.
WLBZ says it has yet to make programming decisions for the
A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 19, 1997, edition of the Bangor Daily
Copyright 1997, Ryan R. Robbins