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.

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