TV Ratings Don’t Lie: Winners and Losers in Yesterday’s Weather Wars

Nothing drives viewership like a snowstorm. For some stations, anyway.


The biggest ratings days of the year for local TV are bad weather days. That’s why the entire weather team comes in, coverage is expanded through the day and poor reporters are standing in the snow trying to come up with something new to say for their 17th live report of the day.

So which station and which weather team does Philadelphia turn to with the year’s biggest snowstorm barreling towards the area? The answer is in the ratings. And the answer is…

Cecily Tynan, Accuweather and the Action News team by a wide margin.

Before I give you the numbers, here is a quick ratings primer. The rating is the percentage of households in the Philadelphia metropolitan area that are tuned into the station. A rating point in the Philadelphia market is equal to just under 30,000 households.

At 5 p.m. yesterday with the storm approaching, Action News and  Tynan won easily over NBC10 (Sheena Parveen), CBS3  (Kathy Orr) and Fox 29 (Scott Williams).

Here are the numbers:

At 5 p.m., Action News gets a higher rating than the other three newscasts added together.

6 ABC – 9.8
NBC 10 – 4.9
CBS 3 – 3.0
Fox 29 – 1.4

And at 6 p.m., when Jim Gardner takes the anchor chair, things just get worse for the other stations.

6 ABC – 12.8
NBC 10 – 5.5
CBS 3 – 4.8
Fox 29 – 1.4

For the late news at 11 p.m., when the snow was falling, no surprise, Action News won again. But when it comes to late news rating, it is important to look at the prime time lead-in and specifically the show right before the news starts. It is much easier to get a higher rating when you have a strong lead-in. For years, Channel 6 has been able to outperform its lead-in, which is a national anomaly. Last night was nothing short of miraculous for Action News, as it doubled its lead-in.

6 ABC – 9.6 (the lead-in, Assets, got a 4.4)
CBS 3 – 6.6 (although second in the ratings at 11, it dropped off the 7.1 lead-in of Elementary)
NBC 10 – 5.6 (Parveen and the team get an impressive jump from Parenthood’s 2.3)

All of the 10 p.m. newscasts jump off their lead-ins, leaving CBS3 as the only station that did not gain audience in the late news on a big weather day.

FOX 29 – 5.5
Action News on WPHL17 – 3.4
CBS3 on the CW – 1.7

In the morning, in case you were wondering, 6 ABC won again, followed by NBC 10, CBS 3 with FOX trailing in fourth.

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.

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  • DanFromDelcoo

    Accuweather is historically poor at predicting snow fall amounts until basically a few hours prior to the storm starting. So I guess watching them during the storm is fine, but don’t look to get anything out of their predictions for snowfall accumulation a day or three prior to the storm.
    Jim Gardner is the best in the business when it comes to news anchors, though. That is reason enough to put on their program for the weather.

  • rwolfman3000

    6abc has been mopping the ratings floor with the rest of the competition for nearly the last three decades.

    • Newsguy

      Not exactly true, NBC10 beat them about ten years ago. And CBS3 was right on their heels just a few years back. Of course, Mendte was the anchor when both stations took a run at them, which must make him sick when he looks at the ratings now.

      • rwolfman3000

        do you have the neilsens from 10 years ago? I know they (nbc10 & cbs3) did close ranks on 6abc in the ratings battle; but I’m not sure nbc10 beat them in the ratings and even if they did it was only during a short span. Staff writer for the Daily News in his opening paragraph pins the 6abc legacy at 35 years [ ] and then later you had the Larry “I-am-a-huge-Douch3b4g” Mendte and Alicia Lane fiasco at–was it cbs3 then? Newsguy I spent nearly 40 years in the phila area and there’s one truth about its people and philly news: Philadelphians love 6abc like they love their Eagles. 6abc will remain king until the day Gardner retires.