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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at

May ratings reveal continuing drop in local news, primetime viewing

a black remote control sitting on a wood table is in focus with a blurred tv screen in the background
ready for watching television. Picture on TV is from myself.

Fewer and fewer Cincinnati households are watching local TV news, according to a review of May “sweeps” household ratings since 2015.

Nielsen’s overnight ratings for May “sweeps,” the four-week ratings period which ended Wednesday night, show the continued decline for most local newscasts.

Since 2015, the audience for the 6-7 a.m. local news is down 47% in May.

The ratings erosion is much greater at 11 p.m., ranging from 73% (WCPO-TV) to 57% (WKRC-TV) and 48% (WLWT-TV) since 2015, before Fox 19 added an 11 p.m. newscast. The decline is likely a factor in WCPO-TV pulling main anchors Tanya O’Rourke and Craig McKee off the 11 p.m. news18 months ago to work a day shift.

Station managers often tell me local household ratings are not used in selling advertising, because they use demographics break-outs to market viewers ages 18-49, 25-54 or 18-34. But the household ratings show how our viewing habits have changed over the past decade.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

John Kiesewetter

Fewer and fewer people are relying on “appointment television” morning, evening and late night newscasts. Instead, they’re getting news, information or sports updates from social media, their phones, tablets, computers or Apple Watch whenever they want it. Basically, TV stations are experiencing the same audience decline that newspapers encountered about 20 years ago.

The proliferation of streaming services and other online options have resulted in a 48% drop since 2015 in primetime viewing: 8-11 p.m. on Channels 5, 9 and 12; and 8-10 p.m. on Channel 19. (I’m using 2015 as my benchmark because that’s as far back as I can go in my personal archives, after I left the Enquirer in December 2014.)

Hardest hit in primetime were ABC programs on Channel 9 (down 63%), followed by NBC’s lineup on Channel 5 (down 50%), Fox shows on Channel 19 (down 40%) and CBS programming on Channel 12 (down 38%).

Cincinnati still remains a CBS stronghold, as it has for decades, with a 4.8 primetime rating — up from 4.5 a year ago, but down from 7.7 in 2015.

For the record, WKRC-TV as usual won all significant newscasts in the May household ratings. It even showed slight growth over last May at 6-7 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

John Kiesewetter

WXIX-TV also slightly improved news ratings at 4-6:30 p.m. and 10-11 p.m. compared to last May.

Since 2020 — after WXIX-TV added late afternoon/early evening newscasts — news viewing has dropped 39% for the combined four local newscasts 5-6 p.m. and 6-6:30 p.m., and fallen 42% at 11 p.m.

As ratings declined, Cincinnati stations have tried various strategies to save money, re-deploy staffing or stretch staffers’ workloads.

WCPO-TV is letting go two anchors this week, Evan Millward and Jasmine Stiles, as Scripps stations de-emphasize news anchors. Channel 9 will spend the savings on two anchors by adding five reporters. Millward and Styles had been anchoring at 11 p.m. since O’Rourke and McKee were moved to day shifts in November 2022.

Channel 9 will also expand the use of the computerized “Scrippscast” format from the 4 p.m. news to the noon and 11 p. m. newscasts. The Scrippscastformat has reporters introducing their stories, without interaction with the anchor, but it allows for “live elements like weather and breaking news,” says Jeff Brogan, Channel 9 vice president and general manager.

Channel 9 also is searching for a new weekend morning anchor to replace Kristen Swilley, who left last week to work for Wordsworth Communications. Channel 9 also loses reporter Jessica Hart this month.

WKRC-TV has only one sports anchor, Chris Renkel, since main sports anchor Gary Miller’s contract expired Aug. 31. Channel 12 news anchors or meteorologists read sports reports on Renkel’s off days. In the morning, longtime traffic reporter Jen Dalton does double duty as the breaking news desk anchor.

WLWT-TV added Megan Mitchell as a third morning anchor in January, but has never replaced traffic reporter Alanna Martella, who left in August 2022. Instead, meteorologists or news anchors provide morning traffic reports.

WXIX-TV last week expanded its morning news team by moving Julie O’Neill from her NOW in the Nati lifestyle show after only four months to co-anchor mornings, where viewers here had seen her for years on Channel 9. She was paired with Amber Jayanth, who had anchored afternoon news. WXIX-TV will hire a co-host to work with Abby Urban on Now in the Nati.

Morning anchor Andrea Finney was moved to investigative reporter; longtime anchor Dan Wells was assigned to the alert desk; and Lauren Minor reports and anchors 8-9 a.m.

Fox 19 also is adding two sports reporters and a sports producer, which will make it the largest TV sports staff in town. In March, WXIX-TV became the Bengals flagship station by acquiring the Bengals local TV rights for August preseason game telecasts and other ”exclusive team programming” including Bengals Weekly and From The Jungle: Bengals All Access.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.