O&Os Ride Peacock’s Tail

NBC-owned WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles were the big winners in the November sweeps, driven there by the Peacock web’s victory.

In New York, WNBC eked out a ratings victory in the 11 p.m. news race, beating longtime leader WABC by two-tenths of a point in the November sweeps.

Helped by Thursday’s primetime powerhouse on NBC – particularly the “ER” juggernaut – the Peacock web’s O& O scored an 11.3 rating and 20 share with its 11 p.m. news, up 11% from a 10.2/19 the previous November and providing its best showing since 1988.

WABC, with an 11.1/20, was down 5% from 11.7/22 in late news last year, but still leads by a wide margin in the early evening newscasts.

In other news races, WABC’s “Eyewitness News” at 6 improved from last year with an 11.6/21 to retain the top spot, but lost ground at 5, where it still leads with a 10.3/21. WNBC climbed an impressive 25% at 6 for an 8.6/16, and WNBC’s “Live at Five” was up 8%, to a 7.0/14.

WNBC took the lead at 6a.m., where its 3.7/20 was up 28% against WABC’s 2.9/16, a 3% drop. WCBS, which continues to lead the noon news race on the strength of CBS’ daytime schedule, gained some ground at 5 and 6 with a 5.0/10 and a 5.5/10, up 11% and 15%, respectively, but still far behind news rivals. At 11, WCBS pulled a 7.4/13, down from 7.8/15.

WNBC, fueled by “ER, ” drew a 15.5/28 at 11 on Thursdays, but managed a weekly 10 rating average even with that day excluded. The station sells Thursday news spots separately.

WABC, which has an even wider bump with “NYPD Blue” on Tuesdays (14.8/25 vs. 9.1/17 the rest of the week), sells only a rotation of all days.

Out west, KNBC earned three news victories, including a narrow and rare win over KABC at 6 p.m. But KABC – operating without a general manager in the critical November ratings measurement period – took the prize at 4 and 5 p.m.

In the key 7-8 p.m. access race – where viewing levels dropped 4-5 points from November 1994 – the declining “Jeopardy!” on KABC still had enough strength to fend off a strong challenge from KTTV’s “Home Improvement.” And at 7:30, “The Simpsons” easily triumphed over KTLA’s “Seinfeld,” which finished third behind KABC’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

The O& O news battle was particularly intense, with KNBC easily out front in both the late and early morning battles. The big surprise was at 6p.m., with KNBC edging past KABC by a tenth of a point in a battle that came down to the final night of the sweeps.

KNBC has tied KABC on previous occasions at 6, but the last time it won outright was in the minor July 1992 sweeps. Sensing victory, KNBC put much of its November promotional effort into the newscast and blew out commercial breaks to keep viewers hooked.

KNBC again took the late news title, which is due in large part to its huge primetime advantage. Its 10:45-11 p.m. quarter-hour lead-in shot up from a 10.3 rating/20 share a year ago to 12.7/24. Consequently, the station’s 11 p.m. news rose from 8.6/20 to 9.2/21.

KABC’s 11 p.m. news lead-in also rose from 9.9/19 to 10.8/20, with the news jumping from 7.2/16 to 7.8/18.

Competitors accused the station of using the “stunting” ploys for which it was once infamous. On a couple occasions, KABC let its local Monday night post-game football show run over so its late news would not start on time, thereby eliminating the low score from the November book. KCBS finished the sweeps in dismal shape, experiencing across-the-board erosion in all of its key newscasts, early fringe and access programming.

KCBS, which saw its primetime lead-in tumble from 10.0/19 to a paltry 7.9/15, slid at 11 p.m. from 7.8/18 to 6.2/14. KABC, meanwhile, in its 4 and 5 p.m. news victories, saw its ratings shrink by roughly half a rating point from a year ago.

Its news lead-in, King World’s “Oprah Winfrey,” dropped 1.1/3 from November ’94. Still, the talk queen reclaimed her crown in the L.A. chatter race, with KCOP’s once-powerful band of daytime talkers all experiencing significant erosion in the first sweeps following the O.J. Simpson trial.

KABC’s biggest drop came at 6 p.m., where it plunged 1.3 rating points year-to-year. Station officials blamed the loss on lower viewing levels rather than their decision to drop anchor Paul Dandridge (the newscast won by two-tenths of a point during the May sweeps with Dandridge).

With its “Sally Jessy Raphael” lead-in flat from November 1994 at a 3.0/9, KNBC’s 4 p.m. newscast dropped slightly and its 5 p.m. decreased a full rating point from a year ago.

Elsewhere, Spanish-language station KMEX posted significant year-to-year increases in access, primetime, early and late news.

KMEX’s late news averaged a 3.6 rating, up 71% from its year-ago mark of 2.1.

KMEX proved to be the lone improvement in the early news contest. Its 4.8 rating at 6 p.m. was up 37% from a 3.5 in November ’94.

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