Indies grow, WCBS slows in Gotham news ratings

There’s good news and bad news in New York’s late news war — growing viewership for the independents, while WCBS faces serious erosion.

First, the good news story (even though the newscasts themselves would invariably lead with the bad news). WPIX’s “Channel 11 News at Ten” gained 16% in the ratings to reach a 5.0/8 up from last November’s 4.3/7.

But WPIX only closed the gap slightly, because WNYW, the longtime leader, was up 11% over last November to 6.2/10. Even WWOR, the perennial third-place team, rose 18%, though it still trails the pack at 3.3/5. All figures are Nielsen ratings.

Meanwhile, at the network O&Os, WCBS’ 11 p.m. news earned its lowest ratings in nearly two decades — despite having “Late Show With David Letterman” as its strongest lead-out ever. Letterman added 36% more viewers to the post-news slot, yet WCBS scored only a 7.9/15 in the newscast, down 9% from last year.

WNBC, which lost viewers in the lead-out (“The Tonight Show” finished behind WPIX’s repeats of “Murphy Brown” and “Designing Women”), basically held even with its 11 p.m. newscast at 10.3/20, while market leader ABC gained slightly to 11.7/22.

The standings remain the same for early evening news: At 6 p.m., ABC expanded its lead, improving to an 11.1/20 over WNBC’s 6.5/12 and WCBS’ 5.7/10.

At 5 p.m., ABC’s 10.1/20 leads NBC’s 6.7/14 and WCBS’ 5.3/11. But WCBS was up 13% over the previous November, due in large part to an overwhelming improvement in the lead-in. “Geraldo” scored a 5.8/15 at 4 p.m. to top “Donahue” (on WNBC), a 76% improvement over last year’s dismal 3.3/8 showing for “Hard Copy.”

This year’s most impressive noon performer is “Ricki Lake” on WWOR, with 4.5/ 17 in repeats.

WABC won sign-on to sign-off, despite dipping from a 7.8/18 to a 7.5/19. WNBC gained the most, up 9% to 6.3/16, while WCBS trails at 5.6/13, up slightly from November 1992. In the indies, WPIX won its third straight November with a 4.7/11 , topping WNYW’s 4.2/10. WWOR is threatening to join the race, climbing 13% up to a 3.6/9.

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