Record ‘Idol’
viewership balloons
local Fox ratings

Half the households with TVs
were tuned into the program that
featured two local singers


Saturday, June 19, 2004

KITV's morning news show is "KITV 4 News This Morning." A Page A1 article Wednesday incorrectly called it by a previous name, "Good Morning Hawaii."

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

"American Idol" broke Hawaii viewership records in May, according to the just-released Nielsen ratings.

Of local households with televisions, 50 percent were tuned to "American Idol." Of those with TVs actually turned on, 73 percent were tuned to the show on KHON-TV.

"I think we knew all along we'd pull some great gains," said Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii market senior vice president for Emmis Communications Corp., which owns KHON and KGMB.

In February, "American Idol" garnered a 31 rating, 45 share.

"There really is no precedent for it," said Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV.

"Across the country, the show does an average 16 rating. They did a 50 here."

Hawaii had two enduring contestants to cheer and vote for -- Maryknoll School's Jasmine Trias and Maui's Camile Velasco -- unlike last season, when "Idol" hopeful Jordan Segundo was the sole Hawaii entrant and didn't last as long in the competition. This year, both Hawaii women finished in the top 12, with Trias going all the way to No. 3 and becoming a household name in the process.

John Fink, vice president and general manager of KHNL and KFVE-TV, had predicted earlier this year that "American Idol" would get the 50 rating.


"You're not talking about one show, one time. You're talking about (mentions and promotion of the show during) newscasts, morning interviews, high school shots and hours and hours of programming Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays," Fink said.

"Keep in mind that when you've got a 50 rating going into your next show and something coming into it, you get the halo effect. (But this rating) is unsurpassed in the history of Hawaii television," he said.

Hawaii audiences favor big-event programming, Fink said. Statewide viewership of events such as the Olympics "always do 50 percent or more than the mainland," he said.

A memo by Rosenberg to KITV staff obtained by the Star-Bulletin attempted to put "AI's" success into perspective. If the local ratings of "American Idol" local ratings were plugged into a national list of the top-rated TV specials of all time, it would rank No. 4, behind the final episode of MASH in 1983, which garnered a 60.2; the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas and its 53.3 rating in 1980; and the 51.1 rating of "Roots: Part VIII" in 1977.

"This is completely unprecedented for a four-week average," said Rosenberg.

Earlier high ratings in Hawaii typically went to shows like "The Cosby Show" and "Monday Night Football," which in the early 1990s posted a 24 rating.

Three Nielsen surveys are taken in Honolulu each year and are used, among other things, to determine advertising rates. The May survey has the longest shelf life, as the next ratings periods are not until November and February.

Some media insiders who don't work at KHON feel the monstrous ratings for "AI" were a one-shot deal, diminishing the significance of the May ratings survey.

"It's an anomaly that will obviously go away," Fink said.

Rosenberg said, "Our job is to make people throw away this (ratings) book."

In response, KHON's Blangiardi said, "It's not even worth a comment, and if I made it, you wouldn't print it."

"It's never any one thing, no matter what the situation. Everything contributes, but clearly, on a very consistent basis, seven days a week, starting at 5 with our morning news, we generate significant audience," Blangiardi said.

"The reaction at the station really centers on the success of our news products," he said.

Fink and Rosenberg were happy at their news teams' gains in the face of the "AI" juggernaut.

"We held our own at 5, 6 and 10 against arguably the single-largest programming phenomenon in Hawaii television history," Fink said.

ABC affiliate KITV suffers from the network's weakly rated prime time programming, but Rosenberg was upbeat about increases in viewership of "Good Morning Hawaii" and its 5 and 6 p.m. local newscasts.

Early news of the Nielsens made the rounds of Honolulu's advertising agencies yesterday and raised some eyebrows.

"The halo effect for Fox is going to increase their ratings all the way and increase pricing and increase the cost (of advertising) to the client as a result," said Kim Bock, media and research director of the Harris Agency LLC.

Bock won't dismiss the May survey.

"You can't throw it out. It is a picture of what happened."

Deliberate moves to boost ratings with specific programming is nothing new for the television industry.

"All networks attempt to run specials during sweep periods in order to distort viewership and time period ratings," said Chuck Cohen, senior vice president and executive media director for Starr Seigle Communications Inc.


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