One thing that's obvious after sorting through the figures for February's "sweeps" ratings period: Fox isn't just successful on cable news these days.
Tampa's Fox station, WTVT-Ch. 13, did well in most news time slots among viewers ages 25 to 54 during that period — which actually started Feb. 4 and ended March 3 — winning early-morning hours, beating the Today show at 7 a.m., tying with Oprah Winfrey at 4 p.m. and beating rival NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8 in the 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. hours when they air competing newscasts.
Viewers ages 25 to 54 are a key demographic for advertisers, and a convenient way to measure success at a time when viewers can be sliced into many different segments.
Small wonder WTVT added an hour to its morning news block last week, pushing back Live with Regis and Kelly to 10 a.m. weekdays and removing Martha Stewart's syndicated show.
WTVT's success came during a month when the Winter Olympics and Jay Leno's return to late-night TV nevertheless boosted numbers for WFLA, nearly tripling its rating for key viewers in prime time and boosting its 11 p.m. newscast ahead of longtime leader and CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10.
Because all of the Tampa market's ratings are sampled electronically, there isn't technically a "sweeps" period, where smaller markets get age and gender information on viewers four times a year after survey participants fill out special diaries. But old habits die hard, so sweeps periods are still seen as benchmarks.
In prime time, where NBC's Winter Olympics and Fox's American Idol competed with CBS's always strong regular lineup, WFLA won with key viewers. WTSP still won at 11 p.m. among women ages 25 to 54.
Here are a few ratings numbers, all in adults 25 to 54, provided by WTSP. One ratings point equals about 16,000 viewers in that age range.
• From 6 to 7 a.m.: WTVT (Fox), 3.4; WFLA (NBC), 2.1; Bay News 9, 1.2; WTSP (CBS), 0.8; WFTS-Ch. 28 (ABC), 0.7.
• From 7 to 9 a.m.: Good Day Tampa Bay (Fox), 2.9; Today (NBC), 2.2; Bay News 9, 0.9; Good Morning America (ABC), 0.7; Early Show, (CBS), 0.5.
• The 11 p.m. newscasts: WFLA, 2.4; WTSP, 2.1; WFTS, 1.4; WTVT, 1.4.