KTVU, KNBC Score Big Ratings

Oct 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

During last week’s historic gubernatorial recall election in California, San Francisco’s powerhouse Fox station KTVU-TV continued its news dominance while independent KRON-TV showed it’s much more than an afterthought. The new kid on the block, NBC-owned KNTV, meanwhile, went out on a limb as the market’s only station offering wall-to-wall prime-time coverage. Down the coast in Los Angeles, NBC-owned KNBC-TV won the 11 p.m. news race, as it usually does.
In the Bay area, already dominant Cox-owned KTVU got a boost from the extra innings of the National League Championship Series baseball game that led into its election coverage, which started at 9:15 p.m. and earned a 9.6/14 Nielsen Media Research rating/share at that time. Independent Young Broadcasting-owned KRON generated a 7.8/11 for its 9 p.m. news. KNTV started its election coverage at 8 p.m. and in the 9 p.m. hour captured a 7.3/10 against KRON and KTVU.
At 10 p.m., when all five stations went head-to-head with special election coverage (and regularly scheduled news in KTVU’s case), KTVU stayed on top with an 8.0/13, with KRON checking in at a 6.2/11. KNTV generated a 5.1/9, CBS-owned KPIX-TV a 4.8/8 and ABC-owned KGO-TV a 3.6/6 for that time period.
`Owning’ the Story
KTVU traditionally dominates in late local news in the market, but also aggressively made the decision to “own” the recall story when it hosted the first debate Sept. 3.
In the 11 p.m. late news hour in San Francisco, KNTV’s decision to go wall to wall from the beginning of prime time paid off with a win in the 11 p.m. news with a 4.7/11, followed by KGO with a 4.3/10, KPIX with a 3.3/8 and KRON with a 3.2/8.
KNTV decided to jump-start its coverage because the story took shape earlier than expected, said Linda Sullivan, president and general manager at the station. Exit polls at midday indicated that the recall would occur and that Arnold Schwarzenegger was likely to win, though broadcasters did not report the news until after polls closed at 8 p.m. That’s why KNTV went live at 8 p.m. to report the results and begin coverage of concession and victory speeches, Ms. Sullivan said. “It seemed that the viewers concurred that’s what they needed,” she said.
Ratings started to dip at 11 p.m. because the race had been called and the story was already told, said Dan Rosenheim, news director at KPIX.
In L.A. KNBC won the news race at both 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. It scored a 6.0/9 at 10 p.m., followed by Fox-owned KTTV with a 5.4/8 during its regularly scheduled newscast, ABC-owned KABC-TV with a 5.3/8, Viacom-owned independent station KCAL-TV with a 4.5/7, Viacom-owned CBS station KCBS-TV with a 4.1/6, Tribune-owned WB station KTLA-TV with a 3.7/6 and Fox-owned UPN affiliate KCOP-TV with a 2.1/3. KCAL’s strong ratings were buoyed by the fact that it normally carries news during all of prime time. During the traditional 11 p.m. hour, KNBC snagged the top spot with a 5.7/12, KABC had a 4.2/9, KCBS had a 3.6/8, and KCOP had a 1.6/3.
KCBS and KCAL were the first local stations to call the race, at 8:02, they said. However, KNBC opted not to take the Tom Brokaw network interrupt at 8:01 p.m. “People were still in line at polling places at 8 p.m.,” said Robert Long, KNBC’s VP and news director. The station waited until about 8:30 to call the race and began its wall-to-wall coverage at 9:45 p.m., since that’s when the bulk of the news began to come together with speeches, he said.