5 Ties 4 

Ratings war heats up

Ratings war heats up

Take a country music legend who died under questionable circumstances, add a few school teachers with secret criminal records, throw in some fistfuls of cash, and you’ve apparently got the winning formula for local television news.

With only two nights left in the February ratings period, WTVF-Channel 5 has pulled even with long-time leader WSMV-Channel 4 at 6 p.m. on weekdays. No station has beat Channel 4 in that time slot since July 1981. And only once since then, in 1995, did anyone even come close.

Last February, Channel 4 pulled in an audience share of 22 percent at 6 p.m., five points ahead of Channel 5. As of Tuesday, both stations were tied at 20. Channel 2 had an 11 percent share at 6 p.m., up a point from a year ago.

Channel 4 still leads Channel 5 by two share points at both 5 and 10 p.m. Although Channel 2’s 10 p.m. news will likely get a big boost Wednesday from Monica Lewinsky’s interview on 20/20, the station may still finish six or seven points behind Channel 5, which is giving away $5,000 to viewers that night.

Although one ratings period hardly signals a long-term change, Channel 5’s flash-and-trash story selection, impressive graphics, and repetitive, multi-media promotions may finally be turning Nashville into a typical, big city television market.

One can hardly blame them for giving viewers what they want.

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