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Stations jockey for May sweeps dominance

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC-owned WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, is back on top in the 11 p.m. news race for May sweeps. It’s been exactly a year since it last had the No. 1 spot for that time period. Since then, NBC-owned WCAU-TV has owned the crown.
WPVI earned a 12.1 Nielsen Media Research rating and 21 share. WCAU took second with an 11.2/19. CBS’s KYW-TV was third with a 5.6/10. WPVI General Manager David Davis said the station’s 11 p.m. newscast was up 22 percent from its network programming lead-in. In the market, ABC prime time finished third.
Two controversial departures at the top two stations in the market didn’t seem to hurt ratings. WPVI reporter Rose Tibayan left the station this month after being suspended since March 18 because she was using the station’s name to write a book for aspiring TV journalists and was not given approval by WPVI for the book project.
WCAU had its own bad ink when its morning anchor Sharon Reed allegedly wrote a series of harassing Web postings targeting WCAU reporter Alicia Taylor. Ms. Reed left in March and has landed at CBS affiliate WOIO-TV, Cleveland. The 10 a.m. newscast, which Ms. Reed anchored, was relaunched as a lifestyle show for the May book with Tiffany McElroy filling the vacancy. The 10 a.m. show, which only has two news updates, got a 2.1/7 and was up from last May’s 1.6/6. “It’s the only daily local lifestyle show in town,” WCAU General Manager Dennis Bianchi said.
Another surprise was in San Francisco, where the dust is still settling from KNTV’s switch to an NBC-owned station. ABC-owned KGO-TV won sign-on to sign-off. In the late news race, Cox-owned Fox affiliate KTVU-TV won by the largest margin of victory since 1987 with a 7.4/13. KNTV came in second with a 5.5/13. A year ago, before the affiliation changes, then-NBC-affiliate KRON-TV had a 7.7/19 for the 11 p.m. news. This May, as an independent, KRON came in last with a 2.3/5 for the 11 p.m. news. KTVU was also No. 1 in morning and midday newscasts. KGO was No. 1 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. KTVU was second at 6 p.m.
“What’s happened is the NBC shift to KNTV created a vacuum as KRON becomes more challenged,” said KTVU General Manager Jeff Block. “A lot of viewers are up in the air in different time periods. We want to have more of the people who watched the `Today’ show, and it’s not where they expect it to be. If we were their old second choice, we can prove to them we’re good and we can become their first choice.”
In Los Angeles, KNBC-TV won the 11 p.m. news for the 31st consecutive sweeps period, along with the morning news race. KABC-TV won the midday, 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news. “Good Morning America” was No. 1, up from a year ago when it was in fourth place in its time slot. KABC again racked up frequent flier miles. David Jackson reported from Israel for most of the book, and on the last day of sweeps the station sent reporter Carlos Granda to Washington to cover the discovery of Chandra Levy’s body. “Our desire is to continue to bring viewers of L.A. the news they want to see no matter where in the world it occurs,” said KABC General Manager Arnie Kleiner. “We’re a local station, but we’ll go wherever the story is. Wherever and whenever, it’s ours.”
But rival stations were closely following the 6 a.m. news race because of what seemed to be an anomaly-in the beginning of the book, Fox-owned KTTV was beating KNBC in that time period, without stunting. KNBC eventually won the 6 a.m. news race for the 33rd consecutive sweep. KTTV did win the 10 p.m. news race for the seventh consecutive sweeps.
KTTV also turned heads at rival stations because it aired a car chase taking place in Phoenix. KTTV and KCOP General Manager David Boylan said the car chase was already on Fox News Channel, and because KTTV car chase commentator Rod Bernsen was called up to narrate the Phoenix car chase, the morning news crew aired it. Morning news anchor Steve Edwards also wanted to air it to point out to viewers that coverage of car chases may have started as a trend in Los Angeles but has taken off in other parts of the country.
Rival Tribune-owned KTLA launched its synergy efforts with the company’s Los Angeles Times. KTLA reporter Ron Olsen reported from the Times’ newsroom, interviewing Times reporters on stories that would be in the paper the next day.
In New York, WNBC-TV and WABC-TV tied for first place at 6 a.m., while WNBC took first in the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. race. WABC was No. 1 at 6 p.m. for Monday through Friday, while WNBC was first in the time period for Monday through Sunday. WNYW was No. 1 for the 10 p.m. news race with a 4.0/6, up from second place last May, when sister station UPN affiliate WWOR-TV came in first.
This May, WWOR-TV and WB affiliate WPIX-TV tied for second at 10 p.m. with a 3.2/5 for Monday through Friday. But WPIX was second for Monday through Sunday with a 3.2/5, followed by WWOR with a 2.9/4. WPIX was No. 3 last May.