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They were partying at KUTV on Thursday to celebrate February ratings. Channel 2 scored a resounding victory over longtime leader KSL-Channel 5 in the local news wars.

In the Monday-Friday late-night news, Channel 2 won 18 of 20 days in the ratings period (Feb. 3-March 2), including 15 in a row.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. KUTV finished first with its local newscasts at 5, 6 and 7 a.m., noon, 5, 6 and 10 p.m. — perhaps the first time a local station has won with every one of its newscasts. (At least it's the only time that has happened since 1985.)

"In all of broadcasting history — not just in the state of Utah — it's one of the biggest ratings turnarounds," said Steve Carlston, KUTV's vice president and general manager, who bought his troops pizza and ice cream to celebrate. "To win all news [programs] and beat the legacy station — there's no doubt there's a new leader."

There was also reason to celebrate at KSTU-Channel 13. The Fox affiliate's 9 p.m. newscast showed the most growth of any late-night newscast compared with both November and February 2010.

If the November 2010 sweeps was the tipping point, there was a bit of a ratings landslide in KUTV's favor in February. While there was some debate over who was No. 1 in late news three months ago, there's none now. Applying spin to the numbers is common practice, but KSL's executive vice president of news, Tanya Vea, didn't even try.

"Congratulations to them," said Vea, a former KUTV news director who took over management of KSL's news operation in January. "They won. And won clearly. We're really focused on rebuilding. We know that there have been some problems. This has focused the staff on really making a commitment to doing what the viewers want."

There's plenty of rebuilding to do: KSL's 5 p.m. newscast was down 30 percent from February 2010; its 6 p.m. newscast was down 41 percent.

In November, KSL claimed a virtual tie in the late-news ratings based on its weekend newscasts. In February, Channel 2 beat Channel 5 by two-tenths of a rating point on Saturdays and was within three-tenths of a rating point on Sundays. And Sundays were atypical, with three of the four featuring the Super Bowl (Fox), Grammys (CBS) and Oscars (ABC).

When it comes to selling TV commercials, demographics matter and household numbers don't. Demographics for the February sweep won't be available until April, but in the all-important 18-49 demo in November, Channel 2 was first; Channel 5 was second and Channel 13 was third — and they were all within a rating point of each other.

Editor's note: The Salt Lake Tribune maintains a news-gathering partnership with KUTV-Ch. 2.

Detailing local news ratings

In the February late-news ratings, KUTV averaged approximately 102,100 homes to KSL's 90,600. KSTU-Ch. 13 was third with 60,100; KTVX-Ch. 4 trailed with 27,700.