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Every TV station's a winner in May ratings period

Gary Dinges, Static

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Austin TV stations pulled out all the stops to get you to tune in during May, serving up a dizzying mix of titillating stories focusing on everything from alleged government waste to companies accused of shady business practices.

Here's why: Ratings during four months each year — February, May, July and November — are used to set ad rates. More eyeballs equals more revenue.

All the hype worked. Viewership numbers spiked around the dial, giving each station bragging rights of some sort.

At 4:30 a.m., KTBC took first place. KVUE was No. 1 at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and middays. KXAN won at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. And at 10 p.m., KEYE landed in the top spot.

KEYE's victory at 10 p.m. was its first win — in any time slot — in recent memory. The newscast had a 4.9 rating, giving it an average of just less than 34,000 viewers a night.

"Having the most-watched 10 p.m. news in Austin is a big responsibility, and we take our jobs seriously," news director Suzanne Black said. "I am very proud of our staff, who works so hard. We've put together a great team, and Austin viewers have noticed."

A bit of inside baseball: Staffers at other stations pointed out that CBS affiliate KEYE retitled the second half of a couple newscasts, labeling them as special reports. That means that portion of each broadcast didn't count in Nielsen's totals for the month, potentially inflating numbers.

KEYE did nothing wrong. Stations across the country — but typically not here in Austin — do the same thing on a routine basis. It's all perfectly legal in the ratings world.

The folks at KXAN were particularly giddy about their two wins.

"KXAN News is extremely excited with having the two highest-rated newscasts (5 p.m. and 6 p.m.) in the market," president and general manager Eric Lassberg said.

The station's 6 p.m. broadcast ended the month with a 5.8 rating, which equates to roughly 40,000 viewers. At 5 p.m., the station had a 5 rating, equivalent to just more than 34,000 viewers.

Last May, KVUE was No. 1 in every time period. It's been a rough year for the city's ABC affiliate thanks to Oprah Winfrey's departure, as well as other changes to the station's lineup.

"I've always said that good competition encourages better service to our community and viewers, which is our ultimate goal as a broadcast community," president and general manager Patti Smith said. "I acknowledge the work of our competitors, just as I acknowledge the hard work done by my own staff to serve the needs of our viewers.

"Further, KVUE remains committed to journalistic integrity and consequently, once again, from sign on to sign off, more Central Texas viewers turned to KVUE for their news and information."

The morning news race has been particularly interesting to watch. Anchors continue to come and go, leaving viewers with a bit of whiplash.

Ratings, as you might expect, have been all over the place. This time around, the 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. newscasts were each won by a razor-thin margin – one-tenth of a point, just less than 700 viewers.

A few other tidbits:

¦ KTBC's "Good Day Austin" tied KVUE's "Live With Kelly" for first place at 9 a.m.

¦ Back-to-back episodes of "Jeopardy!" on KXAN are stomping "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," which took over the 4 p.m. spot on KVUE that was occupied by "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The game show came close to doubling DeGeneres' ratings at 4:30 p.m.

¦ CBS is the city's most-watched network in prime time, followed by, in order, ABC, Fox and NBC.

A Texan on the tube

Look for an actor with local ties on the History Channel's "Hatfields & McCoys."

The miniseries, which premiered late last month, focuses on the infamous Hatfield-McCoy dispute.

Powers Boothe, a graduate of the former Southwest Texas State University, stars as Wall Hatfield alongside Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton and others.

"The History Channel is really giving us a big push," he said. "We're plastered all over New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — even on the sides of subways."

The miniseries was filmed in eastern Europe, Boothe said, and the shoot took about two months.

"I came back and literally kissed the tarmac when I got home," he said.

Boothe said the miniseries looks at the feud in a "real fashion, instead of a Hollywood fashion." That's part of what attracted him to the project.

"The response I'm hearing is great," he said.

Catch all three installments of "Hatfields & McCoys" today beginning at 5 p.m. on the History Channel, Time Warner Cable Channel 61.

Channel surfing ...

There have been some changes to the lineup for the ATX Television Festival, which runs through Sunday. "New Girl," "The League" and "Children's Hospital" have been added to the roster of shows being screened, while "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" has been removed from the list. And Tom Cavanagh and Adrianne Palicki are no longer attending. More information at atxfestival.com. ... Read my blog at austin360.com/tvblog or follow @gdinges on Twitter for updates on TV and radio.

Contact Gary Dinges at gdinges @statesman.com or 912-5987

Sweeps spread ratings around