Local Listings

May 28, 2001  •  Post A Comment

It’s a dogfight in Houston
Houston is proving it has become one of the most competitive markets in the country in terms of news ratings, with stations going to hundredths of a point to compare their numbers. For the first time in recent memory, NBC affiliate KPRC-TV is No. 1 in the Monday through Friday late-news race at 10 p.m., beating longtime market leader ABC-owned KTRK-TV, which won last May as well as in February. KPRC introduced a new concept-having three anchors for the Monday through Friday newscast-in time for the May book. It also introduced a “Night Beat Extra” segment, which is a more in-depth look at news. Viewers responded by giving KPRC a 10.81 Nielsen Media Research rating and 17 share, while KTRK scored a 10.56/16 and CBS affiliate KHOU-TV earned a 10.43/16.
“This could be the tightest three-station race in the country right now,” said KPRC General Manager Steve Wasserman. KTRK won the Monday through Sunday race at 10 p.m. with a 10.95/17, leaving KPRC with a 10.49/16 and KHOU with a 10.25/16. “KTRK used to be the dominant station in this market, like WPVI-TV is [in Philadelphia],” Mr. Wasserman said. “When I got to this market seven years ago, they would beat us by 14 or 15 share points.”
KPRC beat KHOU in the 5 p.m. race Monday through Friday with an 8/16, while KHOU came in second with a 7.7/15, and KTRK scored a 6.5/13. For the Monday through Friday 6 p.m. news, KHOU was No. 1 with an 8.9/16. KPRC came in second with a 7.84/14, while KTRK came in third with a 7.77/14. “I do not believe KTRK has been third in modern times,” Mr. Wasserman said. “In the 1970s, KTRK started to build as a dominant station, and in all of the 1980s and part of the ’90s they were unbeatable. At 6 o’clock the only _surprise is we’ve been third consistently-and now we’re second.”
Miami’s WPLG-TV hit with lawsuits
ABC affiliate WPLG-TV, Miami, this week is expected to go to court for an age-discrimination lawsuit filed by former weekend anchor Steve Alvarez, who was fired more than a year ago.
In another lawsuit against the station,WPLG has until June 1 to respond to a suit filed by local lobbyist Eric Sisser. Mr. Sisser sued WPLG investigative reporter Jilda Unruh for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for invasion of privacy and is asking for a minimum of $15,000 in damages. Mr. Sisser’s lawyer, Steve Silverman, claims Ms. Unruh entered Mr. Sisser’s hospital room, where he was being treated for advanced cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Mr. Silverman said Ms. Unruh asked Mr. Sisser questions about school board land deals and wouldn’t leave the room on May 8.
“She announces she’s an investigative reporter for the station and begins to question him, and he asks her to stop and she just ignored him and went on,” Mr. Silverman said. “He became very agitated and very enraged, and his blood pressure continued to skyrocket. She finally leaves, and a doctor came in and they had to put him on a nitroglyercin drip to calm him and reduce his blood pressure.”
WPLG did not return calls for a comment on whether it will file a motion to dismiss Mr. Sisser’s suit or defend Ms. Unruh’s actions.
Philadelphia’s WPVI back on top
ABC-owned WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, won the 11 p.m. Monday through Friday news race for the May sweeps. WPVI General Manager Dave Davis said the 11 p.m. news garnered an 11.7/22, up 29 percent from its weaker network lead-in, but down 5 percent from a 12.3/23 a year ago. Mr. Davis said HUT levels were down-mainly due to the unseasonably warm, dry weather.
Mr. Davis said WPVI’s news content, including a murder and an extortion trial of reputed mob crime boss Joey Merlino, helped garner viewership. WPVI scored exclusive interviews with people involved in the trial. “There was a very large fire in the Bridgeport area of Montgomery County, where a whole business burned, and that happened during the book,” Mr. Davis said. “It was certainly one of the major news stories, and we had a local district attorney’s election here.”
In February, NBC-owned WCAU-TV won the 11 p.m. news for the first time in more than two decades. This book, WCAU is up in nearly every newscast. “We had another terrific book. We had year-to-year growth in every single news daypart,” said WCAU General Manager Dennis Bianchi. WCAU came in second at 11 p.m. with an 11.1/20, up from a 9.7/18 a year ago.
Karissa S. Wang can be reached by phone at 323-370-2430, via e-mail at kwang@crain.com or by fax at 323-653-4425.