Sweeps Mentality Still Part of Stations DNA

By Andrew Gauthier 

Broadcasting & Cable

There are some who insist the concept of sweeps is a thing of the past. WPRI/WNAC Providence President/General Manager Jay Howell is certainly not among them.

On the opening night of the November ratings period, LIN’s CBS affiliate WPRI unveiled the culmination of a major investigative report revealing a state government’s fraud unit that the station’s I-team says is guilty of committing a little fraud itself. Howell says “Fighting Fraud” took three months and considerable expense to produce, and the station gave the report every chance to hit maximum late-news viewership in the No. 53 DMA: The nearly six-minute story and a 3 1/2-minute follow-up on how it came together had starring roles in a commercial-free late newscast on Oct. 29.

While some say modern audience measurement such as Local People Meters (LPMs) has made the sweeps periods less relevant, others believe the four ratings periods that set advertising rates are vital as ever. “Sweeps are definitely a time for us to show off,” Howell says. “We’re saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, and here’s why you should switch to WPRI.'”

Nielsen’s ratings periods, currently representing November, February, May and July, have been a local television convention for about a half-century. The term came from the ratings giant mailing paper diaries to homes across the country during those key periods, thus sweeping the nation with the paperwork. More…