In addition to Ken Jennings and that lady who won $1 million for knowing that the “LEA_ _ _A_CET” that could be found around the house was a “LEAKY FAUCET,” you can now count KLAS-TV, Channel 8 among the biggest “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” winners yet.
Viewership is up across the board at the local CBS affiliate since it began airing the popular game shows in September.
“We’re getting higher ratings for those two programs on our station than they had on their previous station,” said Emily T. Neilson, KLAS president and general manager.
According to The Nielsen Company’s numbers from the recently completed November sweeps period, “Wheel” and “Jeopardy!” are up 26 percent and 18 percent, respectively, over November 2012.
“But it also reminded people that, ‘Hey, there’s a really top-quality news organization over here. Oh, and I like this program, and I like this program,’ ” Neilson continued. “And it just kind of reinvigorates the viewers that may not have watched us as frequently as they did in the past.”
That “previous station” is KSNV-TV, Channel 3, which dropped the shows, two of the most coveted properties in syndication, as part of its decision to concentrate on local news.
KSNV owner Jim Rogers “felt that in order to survive whatever the future is of local television,” that meant “doing local news and doing a lot of it,” said Lisa Howfield, KSNV vice president and general manager.
To make way for a 3-8 p.m. daily news block, KSNV ended its longtime association with the game shows and sent “Days of Our Lives” to KVCW-TV, Channel 33, where its ratings have risen 13 percent.
Calling the new lineup “still a work in progress,” Howfield declared she’s “really proud of what I’m seeing on the air. And (Rogers) has made it very clear: Don’t worry about the numbers, worry about the content, worry about putting on something that you can be proud of. And I think that we have accomplished that.”
KSNV has made some gains in the afternoons. By moving “The Doctors” and “Dr. Phil” up an hour to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., ratings in those time slots have increased 57 percent and 180 percent, respectively. And the 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts have seen modest gains of 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent.
But by giving up “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel,” KSNV’s ratings at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. have plunged 60 and 62 percent.
That 60 percent drop has made “Ralston Reports” look particularly vulnerable in its new time. With the “Jeopardy!” move, KSNV went from dominant to dominated at 6:30 p.m. This November, “Jeopardy!” averaged a 6.36 rating compared to “Ralston’s” 2.17. (Each ratings point represents 7,260 homes.)
“It’s gonna be tough,” Howfield said, “but the station remains committed to having at least one program — if not more in the future, who knows — that’s committed to looking at the issues and getting people on the air to talk about them one-on-one.”
One program that fit that bill, “The Agenda,” has been canceled. But with its new time slot, “Ralston’s” ratings actually rose 6 percent from 2.05 to 2.17, and Howfield said there are no plans to replace it with something more competitive.
As the only local station with a 7 p.m. newscast, KSNV is taking a ratings hit against entertainment programming. But, Howfield says, “right now, it’s competing pretty well, at least in the back half (hour) of the newscast.”
Averaging a 2.31 rating, that second half hour of news falls behind “Entertainment Tonight” (KLAS; 4.41), the telenovela “Corazon Indomable” (KINC-TV, Channel 15; 3.61), “Two and a Half Men” (KVMY-TV, Channel 21; 3.31), “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (KTNV-TV, Channel 13; 2.98) and “TMZ” (KVVU-TV, Channel 5; 2.98).
While local news is less expensive to produce than licensing syndicated programs, Howfield stressed that the shift wasn’t as cheap as it sounds. KSNV has added reporters, camera operators, editors and other production personnel for a total of about 25 new jobs.
“So far, we’re doing OK,” she said. “Our advertisers are happy. You just have to price it right. For most advertisers, it’s not about being No. 1. It’s about being efficient.”
By that, she means, unlike rigid syndicated shows, news programs allow the station to add more commercial time if necessary, which keeps advertisers’ cost-per-ratings point affordable.
On a positive note, Howfield touts the station’s successes with “Today,” “Wake Up with the Wagners” and weekends. As for weekday afternoons, though, you can expect even more local news in the years ahead.
KSNV is relinquishing “Dr. Phil,” far and away the station’s biggest hit between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., to KLAS next fall. And the station still plans to get rid of “Rachael Ray” and “The Doctors” when their contracts expire in fall 2016. Barring any other changes, that would clear the path for a staggering 11½ hours of local news each weekday.
“We feel if we do good enough stories,” Howfield said, “the viewers will come.”
Those changes almost certainly will shake up local ratings yet again. But they may not have as profound an impact as “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” which have improved KLAS’ 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. ratings by 130 percent and 175 percent, respectively.
As part of the halo effect, the 7:30 p.m. slot is up 68 percent with “Entertainment Tonight,” and ratings for the KLAS afternoon and evening newscasts have increased an average of 35 percent.
Still, KLAS’ Neilson says the station “took a long time” to study whether adding the game shows was the right move.
“In the end, we came to the analysis that, if a different competitor picked up those programs, say the ABC or the Fox affiliate, it really didn’t mean much for us. It just meant that our closest competitor shifted from being (KSNV) to another one.
“But if we could pick them up and combine that with our strengths — we were already No. 1 in prime time, we were already No. 1 in most of the newscasts, we already had very, very strong syndicated — if we could add these two … it would just shoot us to the head of the pack. And that’s exactly what has happened.”
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567.