Sheree Paolello, Mike Dardis Celebrate Ratings Win Before Their Wedding

May 29, 2019

Sheree Paolello, Mike Dardis and their WLWT-TV coworkers are celebrating a historic win at 11 p.m. in May sweeps – days before the main anchors get married.

WLWT-TV won the late news ratings in May, in both the household ratings and the prized adult 25-54 demographic.

For more than a decade – and possibly more than two decades – WKRC-TV had the most household viewers at 11 p.m. At its peak, probably about 20 years ago, WKRC-TV's ratings at 11 p.m. were more than WLWT-TV and WCPO-TV combined. And for years, WKRC-TV has won every weekday newscast, from 4:30 a.m. through 11:35 p.m.

Mike Dardis and Sheree Paolello announced their engagement with this social media post.
Credit Courtesy Mike Dardis

The ratings win for the Paolello-Dardis team came days before Channel 5's main co-anchors are planning to marry Friday, May 31. They announced their engagement in Jan. 4 social media posts headlined "CO-ANCHORS FOR LIFE."

Could this signal a tipping point in Cincinnati news viewership, particularly since perennial ratings leader WKRC-TV has lost five popular veterans since the first of 2018? Deb Dixon, Larry Davis, Joe Webb and Jeff Hirsh retired, and Brad Johansen left to anchor in North Carolina. I'm hearing that another familiar face could be leaving Channel 12 before the year ends.

The May win was impressive.

"Not only did WLWT-TV News 5 have the most viewers at 11 p.m., but it was also No. 1 in the key adult 25-54 demographic most coveted by advertisers, growing 34 percent versus May 2018. Plus it was a clean sweep for WLWT-TV News 5 at 11 p.m., winning both the overall households and the adult 25-54 demographic on both the five-day (Monday-Friday) and the seven-day averages for May," the station said in a news release.

Stations cite the household ratings only for bragging rights -- WKRC-TV for years promoted that it’s the "most watched" station for news – but advertisers demand demographic groups, not the number of total viewers which skew much, much older.  

Four years ago at 11 p.m., WKRC-TV had a 7.9 rating and 16.8 percent audience share – a commanding lead over WCPO-TV (4.8 rating/10.3% share) and WLWT-TV (4.5 rating/9.5%). WXIX-TV had a 3.7 rating and 6.6% audience share at 10 p.m. in 2015.

When May sweeps ended a week ago, WKRC-TV had a 4.8 household rating and 9.8 audience share, compared to a 5.3 rating and 10.9 percent audience share for WLWT-TV. WCPO-TV was third with a 3.9 rating and 8% audience share. WXIX-TV had a 4.3 rating and 7.5 percent audience share in May at 10 p.m., and a 3.1 ratings and 6.4% share at 11 p.m.

WLWT-TV also was second 5-6:30 p.m. to WKRC-TV.

But it wasn't all good news for WLWT-TV. With the retirement of News 5 Today co-anchor Lisa Cooney April 5,  the station lost viewers in the morning.  Cooney's replacement, former WXIX-TV reporter Kelly Rippen, starts next month.

How did the other stations do? I asked each one to give me their take on the May ratings:

WKRC-TV: Local 12 News is No. 1 at 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., says Jon Lawhead, Sinclair Broadcast Group manager for WKRC-TV, WSTR-TV and Channel 12.2 in Cincinnati; WKEF-TV and WRGT-TV in Dayton; WNWO-TV in Toledo; and WDKY-TV in Lexington, Ky.

Local 12 has been No. 1 in morning news (4:30 a.m.-7 a.m.) in all five monthly books to date in 2019.

Local 12 has reached more households at 6 p.m. in every Nielsen sweep since October 2014. (WKRC-TV and WCPO-TV tied in household ratings in May 2015, but WKRC-TV "had more household impressions," Lawhead says.) "Our winning streak for the entire early news day part goes too far back for me to confirm in time for you to get this posted," Lawhead says.

WXIX-TV: "We primarily track adults 25-54 for our performance metric, the key selling demo," says Todd Galloway, Cincinnati-based regional media analytics director for Gray Television. "For April 2019 (and this data was delivered by Nielsen on May 17th), Fox 19 was No. 1 at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., and the No. 1 late newscast.

"In May with the household ratings, while Fox 19 is not No. 1 in any day part, it is up year-to-year in household share in every news day part except 7-9 a.m.(-3 percent).  More importantly, our 4:30 a.m., 9 a.m., new 4 p.m. and new 11 p.m. are up not only year-year, but also month-month.  WLWT is down double-digits year-to-year in the morning time periods. WKRC-TV is down in all its PM newscasts," he adds. The May demographic data should be released around June 18.

WCPO-TV: It was a very competitive May sweep. If you look at the household and key demographic ratings, there really isn’t much separating the four stations, especially in the morning and late news, says Jeff Brogan, WCPO-TV vice president and general manager. "This isn’t a surprise. We’ve seen a tightening of the newscast ratings and ups-and-downs over the last year," he says. 

"We’re particularly happy with our continued growth in the morning.  We won the adult 25-54 demographic at 5 a.m., and saw a 20 percent increase in that same demo at 6 a.m."