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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

WTMJ-TV is hoping to up its sweeps numbers with a "Live Free and Clear for a Year" promotion.

Contests, elections and storms - Welcome to sweeps


Ah, November.

With a crisp breeze outside and weather dominating national headlines, we know that this month comes in like a storm.

This is November, and we are heading strong into the all-too-important television sweeps season. Based on viewership through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, national outlets and local stations will set their advertising rates for at least the next six months.

As terrible as it sounds, I know that many managers at news outlets – especially those on the east coast– were grateful that the storm surged on land during the first week of sweeps. It gives news staffs the opportunity to prove their worth, as it were, and stock holders the opportunity to pat themselves on the back for the smart investment. It is difficult to put it out there like this, but opportunities come from tragedies like the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

As a whole, I think TV people don't necessarily wish for bad things to happen, they just take the opportunity to turn out their best work at this time – when people need access to information.

While I'm on this streak, it isn't a coincidence that the national election is held when the sweeps are going on. As the people at Nielsen set up these times of measurement decades ago, spring and fall were selected on purpose to be times where local stations had the best chances to reach the most people in their markets.

People also tend to be active during the summer and travel during the holidays. The national election dates were chosen for roughly the same reasons, to happen when people would be in their home communities to vote.

Those of us who watch a lot of local television know what to expect during this time. We will see large investigative reports, and each station will try to do better than the others to land a few big interviews. You also see the most outside promotion of what they have to offer during this time as well. All four local news outlets will advertise on the radio and they may also take advantage of digital billboards.

WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 has also made sweeps a time of contests. In the past they've done the "iPad a day" giveaways. This season, they have teamed up with the Equitable Bank with their "Live Free and Clear for a Year" contest to get more people to watch the 10 p.m. news. With a chance to register and get their mortgage or rent paid for a full year, viewers will have to watch the newscast to see if they won.

It's always fun to try to pick the most successful primetime network shows, and then see how the local stations parley them into viewership for its news. They all use different tactics, but ultimately it is up to the viewer, and their habits that will crown the local winner. And that affects the bottom line.

ELECTION STUMPS: Reports continue to come out with candidates, wives, brothers of political officials stumping in Wisconsin, a swing state. But what's rare is a national TV and radio celebrity will be out stumping as well.

Ann Coulter is stumping for herself with a book signing tour in Wisconsin Nov. 3-4. The conservative TV and radio host will be in Sheboygan, Wausau and Waukesha on Saturday, and in Madison and Racine on Sunday.

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