During the week of November 17, 2014, areas immediately south of Buffalo, N.Y. received upwards of eight feet of lake-effect snow, which is what the area typically sees in an entire winter season. This prompted local TV affiliates’ news departments to provide wall-to-wall weather-related news coverage for a good portion of the week. For the people of snowed-in Buffalo Southtowns, the stations provided a valuable service, providing around-the-clock emergency storm-related information.
For media buyers however, wall-to-wall storm coverage requires us to take ratings discrepancies into account when managing a buy. If an-out of-town agency was to place a future TV buy in the market using the November 14 Nielsen book, and averaged all of the week’s ratings together, they wouldn’t necessarily know they were buying based on inflated ratings results on affiliates that were airing weather coverage during the snowstorm.
For example, on WGRZ, Buffalo’s NBC affiliate, Dr. Phil at 3 p.m. averaged a 4.2 HH (household) rating during non-storm weeks in the November 2014 Nielsen book. During the week of the storm, when news coverage pre-empted the scheduled Dr. Phil Show, the same period received a 13.5 HH rating – more than three times the average amount!
The opposite proved true on stations without news coverage. WNLO for example, airs Law & Order: SVU at 3 p.m. During non-storm weeks, the program averaged a 0.6 HH rating. During the storm, the program dropped to a 0.4 HH rating, losing a third of its audience, most likely to other stations’ storm news coverage.
What does all this mean? It means that media planners and buyers need to be aware of local events that may preempt regular programming and affect ratings books, and plan buys accordingly. There are many ways we do this, all of which give our clients a much more realistic buy at appropriate rates.