Nielsen People Meters Changing TV News Landscape in Baltimore

By Andrew Gauthier 

Baltimore Sun

There have been no major changes at local anchor desks. Nor have any newscasts been added or dropped. But suddenly, Baltimore is a much more competitive local news market than it has been in decades.

Front-running WBAL (Channel 11) is not winning by wide margins any more with its evening newscasts, and even more surprising, WMAR (Channel 2) is no longer a ratings doormat trailing the competition by seemingly insurmountable margins.

Blame it on the Local People Meters, a new bit of technology introduced in Baltimore on July 2 by the Nielsen Media Co. to measure area viewing habits. Nielsen ratings are the primary source of data used by stations to sell advertising time–the fuel that makes the wheel of television go ’round and ’round.

“Obviously, this is much better for us, because in the old system, ‘BAL [WBAL] and ‘JZ [WJZ] had such a huge lead on us that we would never win a night on any newscast,” said Bill Hooper, general manager of WMAR. “And now, we’re winning nights or we’re second on some nights. It’s not huge, and it depends on the demographics … but it’s kind of changed the game a little.” More…