KNBC anchor moves could be just starting

KNBC-TV’s unprecedented midsweeps anchor shuffling, which comes with the once-powerful station’s news ratings in the tank, may be only the first step in an effort to revive the O&O.

Colleen Williams, who returned to the 5 p.m. weekday rotation Friday with co-anchor Paul Moyer after her short-lived exile to weekends, may stand a chance of joining Moyer on the late news, as well.

Any moves probably would wait until after the May sweeps. Williams is 6 1/2 months pregnant and will be out of commission in the next ratings measurement period.

As expected (Daily Variety, Jan. 5), the station has taken Wendy Tokuda off the primary 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts, moving her into Kelly Lange’s 6 p.m. slot alongside Jess Marlow.

Lange has jumped to the 11 p.m. program with Moyer, a pairing unlikely to last given what is charitably described as their less-than-cordial relationship.

Moyer and Williams are both represented by attorney Ed Hookstratten, who reportedly has been fighting to have his clients paired on both newscasts.

KNBC general manager Reed Manville said he made the moves “to get a look at some different combinations.”

‘Reasonable guess’

Commenting on the chances of a Moyer-Williams union at 11 p.m., he said, “That’s a perfectly reasonable guess.” Manville, however, indicated that he would only make such a change if Williams and Moyer click at 5. The same would hold for Lange if she is able to improve the station’s perf at 11, according to Manville.

The G.M. expressed confidence in the existing team. “If I didn’t think this combination would work, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

Others suggested the changes will serve another purpose. “They can find out between now and the May sweeps if Wendy is the real problem,” said one observer.

Pointing fingers

Moyer has failed to halt KNBC’s ratings slide since he bolted from rival KABC-TV last June to accept a lucrative, firm six-year deal with the Peacock O&O. The Moyer-Hookstratten camp reportedly blames Tokuda for the problems, but others at the station are pointing the finger at Moyer.

The timing of the changes also raised eyebrows.

“Frankly, I just ignored the sweeps,” said Manville, who thinks stations put too much importance on the ramifications of anchor changes during measurement periods. “We have to make progress.”

Anyone looking at the numbers would agree. KNBC, which was once battling with KABC-TV for the top spot, is now struggling to stay out of the ratings basement.

KCBS in hot pursuit

At the midway point of the Nielsen sweeps, once-forgotten KCBS-TV was breathing down KNBC’s neck at 5 p.m. (trailing by only half a rating point), a notch ahead at 6 p.m. (a 6.8 rating/12 share to KNBC’s 6.7/12) and a mere two-tenths of a point behind at 11.

Halfway through the Arbitron book, KCBS is leading KNBC at 5 and 6 while closing in at 11.

The changes pave the way for the arrival of KNBC news director Mark Hoffman, who is under contract at CBS O&O WBBM-TV in Chicago through the February sweeps. He was vacationing last week and had no part in the shakeup, according to Manville.

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