WCBS giddy about ratings upswing

Station out of basement for first time since '95

NEW YORK – When you’ve been in the ratings basement for so long, you take your victories wherever you can find them.

That could be the motto for execs at the perennial Gotham news laggard WCBS, who Thursday found themselves getting just slightly excited about the fact that Wednesday’s 6 p.m. edition of “News 2” finished in second place, behind WABC but ahead of WNBC. The silver medal performance marked the first time the station had not finished in third place (or lower) in the time slot since November 21, 1995.

Rising ratings

While WCBS remains in third place in most key news races, the station has been experiencing something of an upswing in the early evening. Thanks in part to a double run of the red-hot syndie strip “Judge Judy” from 4 to 5 p.m., the Eye flagship finds itself in second place in the 5 p.m. news race this month, with WABC first and WNBC third.

Of course, August is not exactly a typical viewing month, with audiences on vacation and ratings wildly fluctuating with the temperature. WCBS’ small victories now will only matter if the station holds onto the momentum once the fall season kicks into gear next month.

For that reason, WCBS veep and station manager Steve Friedman says he’s not bragging about his station’s minor ratings triumphs — yet.

“If I thought this was a seminal moment, I’d be a lot more hyper right now,” the exec said Thursday. “Summer numbers fluctuate a lot, so everything has to be taken with caution.”

Still, considering the fact that WCBS often finished in fifth or sixth place between 5 and 6:30 p.m. just a year or two ago, Friedman, who’s been at the station since December 1997, is encouraged by what he’s seeing.

“It used to be the black hole of Calcutta,” Friedman said of the station’s performance. “We’ve come a long way in 1998.”

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