KNBC remains in lead, KCAL continues growth

There were no car chases to speak of. There were no freeway incidents, no dramatic bank robberies and no Olympics to lift ratings and viewing levels. In the just-wrapped February sweep (Feb. 4-March 3), only the Monica factor had a big impact on the outcome of the local ratings contest.

KABC got a last-minute boost in primetime and in its 11 p.m. newscast from Wednesday’s two-hour “20/20″ sesh with Barbara Walters and Monica Lewinsky, which averaged a whopping 37.6 household rating and 52 share locally from 9-11 p.m. The Lewinsky lift aside, KABC did earn bragging rights in the 4 p.m. news race, squeaking past KNBC for the first time in several sweeps.

But KNBC remains the market’s dominant station in local news and in primetime, as it has for the past two years. Indie KCAL notched another strong book, making it five sweeps in a row with notable growth powered by its newscasts and hot syndie strips like “Jerry Springer” and “Judge Judy.”

KCBS faced double-digit slides in many dayparts, but year-to-year comparisons are skewed by the higher viewing levels generated in February ’98 by CBS’ coverage of the Winter Olympics. KCOP’s sweeps showing also reflected the UPN weblet’s woes in primetime.

Battle for ayem

In the increasingly competitive ayem news battle, Fox O&O KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.” posted a noteworthy 43% spike over February ’98 to average a 3.0/10. Univision’s Spanish-lingo KMEX’s “Despierta America” climbed 21% to a 2.5/9, but KNBC’s “Today” still led the field (3.8/13) with a 15% spike over February 1998 levels.

KABC’s “Good Morning America” (3.4/12) and KTLA’s “Morning News” (3.2/11) slid 15% and 11%, respectively, over year-ago levels. KABC nonetheless recovered at 10 a.m. to see a 9% spike for “The View” (3.5/13) and a 35% gain for sudser “Port Charles” (2.3/9) at 11 a.m.

KTLA also was on the upswing at 11 a.m. with “Judge Mills Lane” (2.0/8) fueling triple-digit gains in the timeslot. At 1 p.m. on KCAL, fellow gaveler “The People’s Court” (5.0/18) swept the time period with a 25% year-to-year spike that helped KCAL’s 2 p.m. newscast climb 32% to a 4.1/14.

Winfrey wins

KABC’s “Oprah Winfrey” (5.1/16) reigned at 3 p.m., in spite of a 15% slide from year-ago and stiff competish from KCAL’s “Judge Judy” (4.9/16). In the 4 p.m. news race, KABC (5.2/13) eked out a win over KNBC (5.0/13), although both were down 20% from year-ago levels.

KNBC came back with a commanding lead at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and KNBC won the network newscast derby at 6:30 p.m. (7.2/13) after coming in second to KABC (5.9/10) last February.

The primetime stats were little changed from February ’98, with the exception of KCBS’ drop from Olympics-inflated heights last year. KNBC led the field with a 10.0/15, up 2% from last year. KABC rounded out the sweep in second place with a 9.3/14, but prior to Wednesday’s Monica boost it was running third behind KTTV (9.1/14) with an 8.6/13.

KCAL’s three-hour primetime news block earned a 12% spike to a 3.7/5. KCOP was flat (3.2/5) from year-to-year, while KTLA (5.7/8) dipped 7%.

As for the 10 p.m. newscasts, KTTV (5.5/9) had a wide lead over KTLA (4.5/8) after the two rivals were neck-and-neck in the November book. KCOP (3.2/5) was again unchanged from last year.

KNBC won the 11 p.m. late news battle with an 8.0/17, in spite of the Monica multiplier effect on KABC’s 11 p.m. average, which jumped overnight to a 7.5/16, from a 6.7/14 prior to the “20/20″ spec. KCBS (5.0/10) posted a big dropoff from its Olympic heights of last year, but it still notched a 14% gain over its November ’98 average. KMEX’s 11 p.m. newscast climbed 25% from year-to-year to a 3.5/7.

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