The latest Nielsen numbers are out and they are... unexpected. Unprecedented might be the better word.
Perennial third-place finisher KRDO/Channel 13 jumped the field to take the lead with 25-54-year-old viewers at 10 p.m., and also beat head-to-head rival KOAA/Channels 5&30 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Now, these are the 25-54's demos, not the overall 12+ numbers. TV stations and advertisers seem to only pay attention to the demos, but, as a newspaper reporter, I think the broadest measure is still, well, the broadest measure.
So please note that, in 12+, KOAA still had wide leads at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. But not, interestingly, at 5 p.m., where it was just a hair ahead of KRDO.
Now, KKTV has beaten KOAA at 10 p.m. within the last few years in both 12+ and demos (I want to say the last time was maybe three or four years ago), but I don't think KRDO has had a No. 1 10 p.m. newscast, by any measure, since the '80s. Maybe farther back than that.
What's going on here? It's hard to say. There were some weird, DTV transition-related shenanigans going on that pushed the winter book into March, but, to the best of my knowledge, those were sorted out by the May ratings period.
Certainly, new KRDO owner the News-Press & Gazette Company has been pumping money into its flagship station. That hadn't paid off before this point, but perhaps it laid the groundwork for a surge.
Perhaps the DTV transition combined with KRDO's first-in-market HD newscast to swing viewers its way (which would help explain why the demos look so much different than the 12-plus numbers: Far fewer older folks have HDTV's).
Just strictly looking at the 25-54 numbers, KOAA's ratings seem to have dropped by nearly half at 10 p.m. KKTV was down as well, although not as much. And KRDO was up solidly, which was enough to take the lead. It was a similar story in other dayparts: Fewer viewers watching local news, but KRDO getting more of them.
Is this an epochal change? A passing of the torch? A fluke? It's going to be a long, long time before we can really be sure. Nobody pays much attention to the summer book, which means that the November book will be the next real data point.
UPDATE: One other interesting ratings data point is that KOAA's mini-me, News First Now, showed up in the ratings for the first time, posting 1's in the morning. The channel started out just on Comcast, but is now on cable and over-the-air on KOAA's digital subchannel, 5.2.