The early returns are in from the February sweeps, and KUTV-Ch. 2 scored an overwhelming victory in household ratings in the late-news wars.
How much has the Salt Lake television market changed in the past 16 years?
In 1996, KSL's 10 p.m. newscast was being watched in more homes than second-place KTVX and third-place KUTV combined.
Fast forward to February 2012, and KUTV's 10 p.m. rating (12.3) was more than KSL (7.9) and KTVX (3.5) combined.
"We're in a very good mood over here at Channel 2," said news director Jennifer Dahl. "It's by far the biggest news number that we've seen in eons."
Significantly, from February 2011 to February 2012, KUTV gained nine-tenths of a rating point, while KSL dropped a whopping 1.7 points.
Not only is Ch. 2's rating the best in decades, Ch. 5's numbers are its lowest in memory.
"Obviously, I'm frustrated by the 10 o'clock numbers and we're focused on that," said Tanya Vea, KSL's vice president of news, who attributed at least part of KUTV's success to that station's contests and on-air giveaways, which she compared to "The Price Is Right."
"Contesting is changing the market," Vea said. "We've done some of that, too, but we have gone as far as we're going to go. We're focused on content, not contests."
At KUTV, they make no bones about using Facebook contests as a "marketing tool." "But if your content isn't good enough, they're not going to stick around," Dahl said. "So, clearly, they like what we're putting on TV. And content is a huge part of what we do here."
KSTU-Ch. 13 was in third place with its 9 p.m. newscast with a 6.1 rating (down 0.5 from February 2011). And KTVX-Ch. 4, which has revamped its on-air news team, showed signs of life by growing from a 3.1 a year ago to a 3.5 in February 2012.
KTVX's 4, 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts were also up a bit year-to-year. And KSTU showed strong growth from 5-8 a.m. and was up a bit at 5 and 5:30 p.m.
It wasn't all bad news for KSL, which was up at 5, 6 and 6:30 p.m. KUTV, suffering without the "Oprah" lead-in, fell at 5 and 6 p.m., maintaining a slim lead at 5 and falling slightly behind KSL at 6.
KUTV maintained its lead in early-morning and noon news, and its 4 and 4:30 p.m. newscasts (which replaced the retired "Oprah") lead KTVX newscasts in those time periods. Ch. 2 leads all the competition, including "Dr. Phil," at 4:30 p.m.
Again, these numbers are just households and do not include any demographic information. Those numbers won't be available for several weeks.
Editor's note: The Salt Lake Tribune maintains a news-gathering partnership with KUTV-Ch. 2.
Local TV news ratings February 2012
In the Monday-Friday late-news ratings, KUTV-Ch. 2 averaged approximately 114,000 homes in contrast to KSL-Ch. 5's 73,000. KSTU-Ch. 13 was third with 56,500; KTVX-Ch. 4 averaged 32,500.