KMOV did an outstanding job of weathering the storm Sunday, when it interspersed severe weather reports with live coverage of the NCAA Tournament.
As the afternoon progressed, tornado warnings popped up in some of the southern portions of the St. Louis region. Instead of going full-bore with updates on those, Channel 4 limited the interruptions to commercial breaks, then ran a “crawl” with the storm information across the top of the screen while play was in progress.
It cost the station advertising revenue but masterfully served viewers by not only showing almost all of Duke’s nail-biting one-point victory over underdog Central Florida but also by providing weather coverage for those affected.
KMOV general manager Mike Murphy said this week that the approach had been created ahead of time.
“It’s such a sensitive line with live sports coverage,” he said. “You want to watch out for the viewers, in more ways than one. You have so many that are crazy about the NCAA basketball. And you want the people in the (storm-impacted) counties to be safe and protected. I thought our team did a fine job.”
That it did.
The result was a dandy amount of restraint from a station that goes into “Storm Mode” when inclement weather looms and uses its weather coverage as a big part of the marketing plan for its newscasts.
And on top of that Channel 4 took a revenue hit, an amount Murphy did not disclose, to do the right thing.
“If it happens again, it more than likely will be similar” balancing, he said.
It was a different approach than the station took in late November, when it broke into an NFL telecast for about half an hour to track a nasty storm moving through the northern and eastern portions of the immediate St. Louis area that led to a tornado warning being issued. That storm system affected a lot more people than did the one Sunday.
“It’s such a fine balance, our viewers’ protection is the utmost,” Murphy said.
The NCAA Tournament began as a dud for those who love upsets, as 14 of the 16 top-seeded teams made it through the first weekend, including all No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds. That’s the first time that has happened since 2009.
But big names winning has been big business for CBS and Turner Sports, which are combining to televise the tourney. Through Sunday the event was being seen in 6.4 percent of homes in the U.S. with a TV, according to Nielsen. That’s the second-highest rating through the first weekend in the nine years the current format of televising every game nationally has been in place. (The rating in 2015 was 6.7). This year’s figure was up 8 percent over last year, when six teams seeded seventh or lower advanced. This year, only one team below a No. 5 seed still was around.
“Often the conventional wisdom is you want a lot of Cinderellas, a lot of underdogs, to win through the first two or three rounds of the tournament, then you want the dominant teams who have great and storied basketball traditions to show up in the Final Four,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus has said. “As much as we like Cinderellas, and as much as they provide drama ... from a pure ratings standpoint you’re better having the four unquestioned best teams in the country, with the kind of basketball traditions they have,” make it through the second weekend to end up in the Final Four.
Locally, the tourney through the weekend was drawing a 7.2 rating across the four networks showing it, to rank 24th nationally among the 56 major markets in which viewership is measured electronically.
St. Louis U. played late last Friday, quickly fell way behind and never seriously challenged Virginia Tech in a 66-52 loss. The game on truTV drew a 5.0 rating in St. Louis.
For national comparisons, CBS-Turner report ratings by blocks of games that start at approximately the same time — in this case at 8:15 p.m. (St. Louis time) or later that night. Also taking place then were Iona-North Carolina, Central Florida-Virginia Commonwealth and Ohio State-Iowa State. Those four averaged an 11.7 rating in the St. Louis market, which ranked 10th nationally. The North Carolina game, on CBS (KMOV), drew a 3.0 rating locally.