KWCH Channel 12 told advertisers this week that it is dropping the Nielsen Co. ratings service, the industry standard, in the new year and switching to other market data.
Only a handful of stations in the country do not subscribe to Nielsen, and the move by KWCH was labeled bold, and risky, by some observers.
Nielsen holds a virtual monopoly in supplying ratings for television stations through its system of viewer diaries. The ratings are used by the stations when negotiating local and national ad rates.
KWCH is part of the Sunflower Broadcasting Group, which also includes CW affiliate KSCW Channel 33 and three satellite stations. Sunflower is owned by Schurz Communications of Mishawaka, Ind.
Sunflower president Joan Barrett said the station will use data supplied by consumer data firm Marshall Marketing and viewer data firm Rentrak. The Rentrak data comes from AT&T U-verse subscribers in the 67-county Wichita television market.
Barrett said Nielsen data isn't always reliable. The company uses the diaries of about 1,000 households. That's not enough in this market, Barrett said.
A recent Nielsen report recorded not one person watching news on any local news station between 5 and 7 a.m. in the Dodge City/Garden City market.
"That's just not realistic," she said.
Dropping Nielsen is a business decision, she said, adding that Nielsen kept promising to improve its product but never has.
"It's not just about saving the money,' she said. "For us, it really came to the quality of information and the responsiveness and the cost. We think we can make better decisions for our clients."
Bonnie Tharp, owner of Copp Media, said it might place the station at a disadvantage, or at least make negotiations harder.
As a representative of advertisers, she also subscribes to Nielsen ratings to better negotiate with the stations. That won't change.
"In my mind, it's not going to be a substitute," she said of the Channel 12 data.
She understands that a lot of stations are dissatisfied with Nielsen, but few have broken away.
"It's a bold move, and I don't think anybody in this market will think it's not a bold move," Tharp said. "I would have expected maybe a No. 3 in the market to do it, but I guess I understand why. It's a big cost-cutting move."