Shared news agreement muddles TV ratings race


POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009

The Honolulu Nielsen ratings for November released yesterday caused a barrage of claims, counterclaims, spin and confusion, as it was the first rating period to reflect the merged news operations of KGMB-TV, KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV since the late October start of a shared services agreement (SSA).

Controversy arose among the SSA's competitors in part because KGMB and KHNL added both stations' ratings together for simulcasts of its “;Hawaii News Now”;-branded newscasts, with staffs merged from the formerly independent and competing newsrooms.

The stations often air commercial breaks at slightly different times with different commercials, but “;it's the same exact product, you have to combine them,”; said Candace Hirleman, marketing director for KGMB, KHNL and KFVE. “;Even according to Nielsen, it's a true simulcast,”; despite issues that foil synchronized transmission.

Conversely, while the simulcast of the Perry and Price radio show on KSSK-FM 92.3/AM 590 is synchronous and those ratings can be combined, according to the Arbitron ratings service, other parts of the day when the stations air the same programming but different commercials are not considered a true simulcast, so ratings cannot be added together.

Hackles were raised at the SSA stations when KHON trumpeted its domination of the local news market and recapturing of the lead at 10 p.m. weekdays based on its number of viewers.

KHON boasts viewership of 62,000 adults in the time slot, saying KGMB had 52,000. KHNL's 17,000 viewers would give “;Hawaii News Now”; 69,000 viewers on both stations.

“;We are looking station to station, program to program, and that's how (advertisers) always buy it,”; said President and General Manager Joe McNamara. The station did gain two share points in the time slot, something McNamara said had not happened in years.

At KITV, Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager, said, “;The bottom line is, when you combine the numbers of ('Hawaii News Now') in most of the newscast areas from last November to this November, the numbers are ... either the same or lower.”;