TV Q&A: Sweeps ratings absolutely matter

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen answers reader questions online every Friday in Tuned In Journal blog at Here’s a selection of recent queries.

Q: Does it really matter money-wise where a local station finishes in the sweeps?

— James, 68, Plum

Rob: Absolutely. Each tenth of a ratings point is worth a dollar amount, so ratings matter a lot to local stations. Ratings during sweeps months — usually February, May, July and November — are used to set future advertising rates. Household ratings are less important than demo ratings. The primary news demo is adults 25-54.

Q: WBGN’s Retro TV airs "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" weekdays at noon and 12:30 p.m. According to Wikipedia, the show ran from 9/10/07 to 5/16/08. Why wouldn't WGBN edit out the telephone number for possible contestants or visitors to the Los Angeles area to call: 323-762-8282? (Of course I tried it, and thankfully it's a nonworking number.) Also, this is the only game show I can remember watching where they don't always show the correct answers (completed puzzle) at the end — funny!

— Amy, 33, Monroeville

Rob: According to a spokeswoman for RetroTV, the network can’t alter the programs.

“Like the majority of Retro TV’s programming, ‘Crosswords’ is a classic show, airing as reruns on our network. We present the show just as the rights holder provided it to us,” said spokeswoman Emily Cline Bronze. “We don’t have the rights to modify someone else’s copyrighted program.”

Q: In light of “Revolution” not being renewed, I have a few questions concerning the difference between cable and broadcast scheduling.

When a show like “Revolution” does well its first season (I am assuming that it had) and they put it up against a powerhouse like “Survivor” this past viewing season, are they looking to win the time slot or trying to kill it because of a high budget or something of that nature?

It seems to me that it would make more sense for NBC or any network for that matter to try to match up genre with a particular night rather than push it into or up against a show against which it doesn't have a chance (“Survivor,” “Idol,” “DWTS”).

An example I would use would be to hold off “Revolution” until after “Football Night in America” is on and use “Revolution” as the 8 p.m. lead-in for “The Walking Dead.” After May sweeps they can put new ones on to lead into or after “Under the Dome.”

Although I am not a fan of reality type shows, my wife is and I would love for there to be a night or two where she can watch those shows instead of having them an hour here and an hour there.

Maybe I am using too much logic, but I don't understand why a network wouldn't want to win its Monday night time slot at 9 instead of coming in third or fourth on Wednesday.

— Paul, 40, Baldwin

Rob: A couple of things to note: Although “Revolution” had decent-to-good ratings in the first half of its first season, by last May the ratings were trending downward, so it made no sense to keep it on Monday. “The Voice” viewers were already abandoning “Revolution”; better to put something new there that might do better – and “The Blacklist” did much better.

NBC’s overall ratings are up from a year ago. So its decisions overall made sense even if on a micro level they did not benefit a returning series like “Revolution.”

As for using a show on one network as a lead-in to a show on another network, the TV business just doesn’t work that way; network executives are only concerned with what makes sense in terms of audience flow on their own network.

Q: I swear one of the voices on Disney Channel’s “Sofia the First” sounds like Tim Gunn. If it is Tim Gunn, how did he get into the voice-over business, when the rest of his career seems to be in reality TV?

— Janelle, 35, Squirrel Hill

Rob: Reality stars have crossed over before. Once a star, there’s no reason you have to be a star in just one TV genre.

Gunn told the New York Daily News that Disney executives sent him the pilot episode’s script to see if he would be interested, and he was.

Q: My mom wants to know is Lisa Williams’ show still on the air, and if so what day or days, channel and time?

— Eric, 50, Pittsburgh

Rob: It was canceled by Lifetime and is not on the air anymore.

Ask TV questions at under TV Q&A (scroll down to find link on right side of the page).

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