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L.A. visit puts KABC talker on top in sweeps

Again proving that visiting Los Angeles gives your talkshow a huge ratings boost in the city, Oprah Winfrey rebounded from her February defeat to knock off Rosie O’Donnell and earn back her crown in the May sweeps survey for Los Angeles, in figures tallied by Nielsen.

Winfrey, who hosted a week of shows out of L.A. (as O’Donnell had done in February), had a 7.1 rating/19 share average on KABC — virtually flat with May ’96 — to O’Donnell’s 5.7/15 on KNBC. Rosie had upended Oprah, 6.6 to 5.8, in February.

Nationally, “Oprah” enjoyed its best May sweeps performance since 1993, coming in with a 9.7 weighted household average.

While KNBC was crediting Winfrey’s strength to the week of tapings and incessant stunting and hype on KABC, officials at the Disney-owned operation pointed out that Winfrey was ahead of O’Donnell by nearly a point even before the locally taped shows began running May 12.

KNBC points out that it nearly doubled its numbers for the 3 p.m. hour year-to-year from the 2.9 generated by “Sally Jessy Raphael” in May ’96, a whopping 97% time period growth.

‘Access’ record

The biggest upset of the May book also involved KNBC: the first-ever win for Twentieth Television’s “Access Hollywood” over rival “Entertainment Tonight” in their head-to-head prime access slot. “Access” posted a 4.8/8 to a 4.6/8 for “ET,” which fell from its 5.0/9 of a year ago. “Access” also bested “ET” in New York.

The Oprah lead-in numbers helped catapult KABC’s 4 p.m. news back to the top after a February stumble, nipping KNBC’s early afternoon news by a 6.3/15 to 6.1/15 margin. However, KABC is down nearly a point from its 7.2 tally of last May.

KNBC came back to snare a win at 5 p.m. with its “Channel 4 News,” pulling in a 7.0/15 (up 13% in rating, 7% in share from a year ago) while KABC slipped more than a full point year-to-year (7.2 down to 6.1, a slip of 15% in rating and 19% in share). KCBS trailed every station in the market at 5 with 2.3/5, but that still represented a .3 rise from May ’96. And “The CBS Evening News” rose from 2.5/5 last May to 3.1/7 this time.

KABC tops at 6

But it was KABC back on top with its 6 p.m. “Eyewitness News,” despite a ratings slip to 6.9 from 7.2 a year ago. KNBC was second at 6.3, while KCBS stayed flat year-to-year at 2.9/6 — beaten out for third place by Spanish-language KMEX (4.3/9).

For the 17th consecutive sweep, KNBC claimed the late-news race at 11 p.m. The NBC O&O stayed essentially flat at 9.4/19 despite a depressed primetime lead-in from NBC year-to-year. KABC slipped a full .5 to 8.1/17.

KCBS was able to stay nearly static year-to-year at 11, slipping slightly from 6.9 to 6.8. But the small drop was something of an accomplishment given the newscast’s recent revamp in focus, and the station was able to establish a growing niche for itself with its crack investigative unit.

“We’re working very hard to dispel the notion that we are a third-place broadcast,” said KCBS VP and G.M. John Culliton.

Showing growth at 11 p.m. were “Jerry Springer” on KCAL, which rose to 5.4/12 from 4.3/10 last May, perhaps in part on the strength of publicity Springer was receiving for an ill-fated newscast commentary stint in Chicago. And Fox’s off-net “Married … With Children” rose to 4.8/10 after a 3.7/8 last May.

Fox victorious at 10

Elsewhere, it was a big book for KTTV as the Fox-owned station celebrated the one-year anniversary of its first victory over KTLA’s “News at Ten” by winning again, this time tallying a 5.4/9 for its “Fox News at 10” (up from 5.0/9 in May ’96) while KTLA remained flat year-to-year at 4.7/8.

However, KTTV again benefited from having a huge primetime lead-in advantage, delivering a 10.9 rating/16 share in common prime competition, placing it just a tick behind KNBC’s 11.0 for first place in L.A. That’s up from KTTV’s 10.2 of last May. Thus, the 5.4 for “Fox News at Ten” is half the number of its lead-in.

That compares with KTLA, which had just a 6.7/10 lead-in (up a full point from a year ago).

KTTV also fared strongly in early fringe and access with its double runs of “Home Improvement” and “The Simpsons,” though KABC’s “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” enjoyed sizable increases at 7 and 7:30 p.m. to knock off the off-net comedies.

“Jeopardy!” racked up a 10.4/19 (up from 9.0/17 in May ’96), while “Wheel” had a massive 10.8/18 (rising a full point from 9.8/17 a year ago). “Home Improvement” found even larger increases at 7 p.m., scoring a 9.3/17 to soar a spectacular 52% in rating year-to-year in the timeslot (a 6.1/12 last year). “The Simpsons,” meanwhile, also rose impressively at 7:30 with a 9.6/16 — a 14% gain year-to-year.

At 6:30, the first nightly run of “The Simpsons” improved the time period year-to-year by 70%. The station ran “Cops” there last year, averaging a 4.0/8. “The Simpsons” raised the bar to 6.8/13 to finish second in the time period overall and beat, among others, “The NBC Nightly News.”

In the morning, meanwhile, “The KTLA Morning News” bounced back from a rare loss to the “Today” show in February to upend “Today” this time. But its 3.6/14 represented a 16% rating, 22% share dip from May ’96. Fox’s “Good Day LA” was a distant fourth (2.3/9) but showed growth from last year’s 2.1/9.

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