WFLD wins a Peabody, but still loses in the ratings race

WFLD continues to struggle at 9 p.m. with its local newscasts, despite the fact of a strong prime-time lead-in.

The March numbers show the Fox-owned station continuing to lag behind WGN and the other stations in the market in households and key demos.

According to Nielsen and numbers supplied by the Sun-Times, WFLD averaged a 3.1 household rating for its 9 p.m. newscast, which is a respectable number. But when you compare it to the competition, it places fifth in the time period, down 16% from a year ago. Moreover, it trails Tribune-owned WGN-TV’s newscasts by 18%

Meanwhile, WGN scored a whopping 182% increase from its CW primetime audience, while WFLD dropped 56% from its Fox primetime lead-in, which contains mega-ratings grabber American Idol. While WGN is fortunate to build from its weak lead-in, other Tribune stations aren’t so lucky – its New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas counterparts trail the Fox-owned stations’ newscasts in prime-time in those markets by a wide margin.

WFLD’s alarming drop means the young viewers who are watching Idol or other Fox prime-time fare are switching to other entertainment programming on the Big 3 networks or cable channels (or switching on their DVRs) in droves at 9 p.m. And the audience that seeks out news at 9 p.m. (notably the 25-54 demo) are not tuning to WFLD, but to WGN instead.

As for the 10 p.m. newscasts, WLS-TV continues to dominate, while WMAQ-TV has bumped up to second now Jay Leno is off prime-time and back into late-night. WBBM-TV is back in third place, but is up 8% from a year ago. However, a 29% drop from its CBS primetime lead in is concerning.

Despite the bad March numbers, there was some good news from the award front for WFLD – its coverage of the fatal beating of high school student Derrion Albert received a Peabody Award on Thursday. WFLD was one of five television stations who won the awards. Other winners included San Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU’s coverage of a transit police shooting in Oakland, which touched off days of protesting; and NBC affiliate WYFF-TV’s public affairs special Paul’s Gift, which encouraged organ donation in the Greenville, S.C.-Spartsansburg, S.C.,-Ashville, N.C area.