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Springer tops in L.A.

Jerry's ratings best Oprah, Rosie, others

“Jerry Springer” was officially crowned on Thursday as the king of the just-concluded February sweeps ratings survey in Los Angeles, earning resounding victories from Nielsen in households at both 10 a.m. and 11 p.m., and leaving “Oprah Winfrey,” “Rosie O’Donnell” and everyone else in the dust. He is now the market’s most popular talkshow host.

While snagging the top spot in L.A. during a major sweep survey for the first time, Springer — mirroring his uncanny momentum across the country — pulled in an astronomical 8.7 rating and 20 share, a staggering 113% increase from last February’s 4.1/10 performance. The gabbing-and-grabbing hour also came out atop the pack in its 10 a.m. rerun slot with a 4.2/15 to nose out “The Price is Right” on KCBS.

‘Nightline,’ Jay, Dave in the dust

“Springer’s” latenight numbers were matched only by KNBC’s 11 p.m. newscast, which deadlocked with Springer at 8.6. But the Universal chatter knocked off everything else handily, including KABC’s “Nightline” (4.8/12) and the opening half-hours of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Show With David Letterman.”

While CBS’s 17-night coverage of the Winter Olympics is credited with helping steal audience from the latenight O&O newscasts and adding a spark to the Springer surge, the primetime lead-in supplied by covering the games couldn’t quite push KCBS to No. 1 at 11 — though the station did enjoy its best numbers, and first second-place finish, since November ’94.

For KCBS, it was a matter of not being able to maintain its Olympic-fueled late-news boost once the games ended. The station averaged a 9.6/21 during the 17 nights of the Winter Games but a 5.0/11 on nights when there was no Olympic coverage.

KNBC’s weeknight late news was thus able to slip past KCBS, earning an 8.6 rating/18 share to KCBS’ 8.2/18 in total households. That’s a more than 60% increase for KCBS year-to-year from its 5.0/11 of February ’97. But KNBC’s performance was down a full point from its 9.6/21 of a year ago. KABC also slipped at 11 p.m., from 7.8/17 last year to 7.3/15 this time.

Rosie Loses to Oprah

Meanwhile, despite KNBC’s “Rosie O’Donnell” moving its home base to Los Angeles for the duration of the sweeps, the show couldn’t knock off “Oprah Winfrey” on KABC for the second consecutive February and in fact suffered an ominous 23% ratings drop year-to-year.

The numbers found “Oprah” — boosted by publicity from her beef trial in Texas — pulled in a 6.0/16 average in households (up a modest 3% from last year’s 5.8/16), while “Rosie” fell to 5.1/14 from her triumphant 6.6/19 of a year ago. The precipitous 1.5 point dip is consistent with O’Donnell’s trending down nationally.

KABC’s “Eyewitness News” at 4 p.m. took advantage of the “Oprah” bump to nearly knock off KNBC’s newscast, with Channel 4 squeezing through with a 6.8/16 to Channel 7’s 6.5/16. And KNBC held the momentum to take the 5 p.m. news crown as well, at 7.9/16, with KABC tallying 7.0/14.

All three O&O newscasts enjoyed sweep-to-sweep spikes at 6 p.m., with perennial timeslot champ KABC rising year to year from 7.8/14 to 8.5/15 and KNBC climbing in households to 8.2/15 from 7.5/14. And KCBS got a boost as well, jumping a full point from November ’97 to 4.9/9.

In the other major news race — the battle at 10 p.m. — KTTV used its significant Fox primetime lead-in edge to power its “Fox News at 10” to its sixth straight victory in a major sweeps over KTLA’s “News at Ten.” Both stations crept up .2 year-to-year, with KTTV claiming a 5.6/9 average to KTLA’s 4.8/8.

The WB helps KTLA

KTLA, however, made primetime gains thanks to its improved WB network program slate on Mondays (“7th Heaven,” “Three”) and Tuesdays (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dawson’s Creek”). The shows landed the station a solid fourth place in the market both nights, with hefty ratings increases.

Making an equally significant jump in both primetime and latenight was KCAL, whose three-hour primetime news “trombo” delivered a combined 9.8 rating/14 share (the broadcasts are sold to advertisers as a package). That 9.8 is up from an 8.1 in February ’97, an improvement of 21%.

KCAL is also a clear No. 1 in the market in latenight, paced by “Springer,” boasting a 5.2/18 average between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. — up a whopping 86% from a year ago.

KMEX posts gains

Also making its presence known in a big way in both prime and access during February was Spanish-language outlet KMEX, whose novel programming posted greater audience growth year-to-year than any Anglo station with the exception of KCBS. It posted a 6.4 average for seven nights of primetime, a nifty 36% rise from February ’97 and placing KMEX ahead of KTLA (5.7), KCAL (3.1) and KCOP (2.7).

Moreover, KMEX’s telenovela “Esmeralda” sent the station’s prime access numbers at 7 p.m. soaring, registering a lofty 8.4/13 average in households (up 79% from the 4.7 in the time period a year ago). That places the station third in the market overall for the 7-8 p.m. hour, trailing only KABC’s “Jeopardy!”/”Wheel of Fortune” combo (11.0/17) and KTTV’s “Home Improvement”/”The Simpsons” duet (8.5/13).

“The Simpsons” was down significantly year-to-year at both 6:30 p.m. (8.8/15 to 7.6/13) and 7:30 p.m. (10.9/17 to 9.7/15), while KTTV’s double-run of the offnet “Home Improvement” plummeted even more severely: dropping from 7.4/14 to 5.5/10 at 6 p.m. and 10.7/18 all the way down to 7.3/12 at 7 p.m. That’s a viewership loss of roughly a third.

In the morning newsmag faceoff, meanwhile, “The KTLA Morning News” remained second in the market. Last February, it trailed NBC’s “Today.” This time, it was runner-up to “Good Morning America” on KABC, which pulled in a 4.0 rating/15 share average in homes to a 3.6/13 for “Morning News,” despite the local-interest hoist supplied by the El Nino rainstorms.

“KTLA Morning News” fell slightly from a 3.7/14 in Feb. ’97 while its chief local competitor — KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.” — remained flat year-to-year at 2.1/8.

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