KABC sweeps past rival KNBC

Local station tops in news slots

For the second consecutive sweeps period, KABC has topped arch-rival KNBC in several key races.

Largely duplicating its November perf, the ABC-owned outlet has taken the 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscast crowns, with double-digit increases in all three periods vs. year-ago numbers.

KABC, scoring 6.2/14, 7.4/15, and 7.5/13 respectively, saw its biggest gains at 6 p.m. (up 38%).

Arguably, KABC’s prowess over KNBC (coming in at 5.2/12, 6.9/14, 7.0/12 at 4, 5 and 6) is a result of its 3 p.m. lead-in, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“Oprah” came up with its best numbers (6.2/16) since May 1997, easily handling KNBC’s “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” (4.0/11).

“Our newscasts build upon each other all the way through the day,” KABC topper Arnie Kleiner said. “Others may think (the station’s numbers) may be another fluke or pin it on ‘Millionaire,’ but it’s because of our content, promotion and people coming together.

“I can’t imagine why we won’t keep repeating this trend,” Kleiner said.

KABC also won the gold medal for weekday daytime (4.0/14), total sign-on and sign-off (5.5/14) and Monday-Sunday primetime (10.9/17) — which was based mostly on the Energizer bunny-like success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Still, KNBC held the clear bragging rights at 11 p.m. (8.0/17) — impressive considering KABC’s strong primetime perf. KABC’s late newscast took second place in the timeslot, pulling a 7.3/15, while KTLA’s “Friends” was third with a 6.2/11.

“I congratulate KABC for having a great book, but the truth is that viewers showed how much they preferred our news when they tuned in without a strong lead-in to drive them,” KNBC general manager Ray Heacox said.

But given the new circumstances of “Millionaire” and “Oprah,” Heacox said he would work to find better ways to promote KNBC’s shows outside of on-air.

Rivalries aside, the real story for February sweeps may be that local stations are finally bucking the traditional pattern of news rating erosion.

In the suddenly crowded 5:30 a.m. timeslot, blue-ribbon KNBC (3.1/21), second-place KTTV (2.1/14 in its frosh effort), KABC (1.8/12) and KMEX (1.4/9) all posted double-digit percentage gains over February 1999.

Univision flagship KMEX had the largest margin of increase, jumping by 100%.

And at 6 a.m., KNBC (4.5/20), KABC (3.4/15), KMEX (2.1/9) and KTLA (2.8/12) likewise soared over their early ayem perfs for the same time last year. KMEX was up 75%; KABC, 42%; KTLA, 33%; and KNBC, 18%.

The oddball may be KCBS, which generally comes in dead last with its morning and afternoon infocasts.

KCBS’ “Women 2 Women” ratings are up 7% over February 1999’s “The Howie Mandel Show,” but the female-skewing talker (1.2/3) came out sixth at 4 p.m.

The addition of Bryant Gumbel to CBS’ “The Early Show” hasn’t helped matters — grabbing KCBS a meager 1.0/3 rating, down 33% from last year.

But new KCBS general manager John Severino, in his second sweeps outing, remains optimistic.

“We’re not overjoyed (with February), but all our newscasts are unchanged or up over November,” said Severino. “Our 11 p.m. (5.0/11) is the highest it’s been since May 1998.”

As for “Women,” Severino called the program a “work in progress.”

“We’ve decided to make a long-term commitment with it and thankfully it’s shown some growth,” he said.

Help may be on the way for KCBS’ low-rated newscasts from new hire Joel Cheatwood, who was named VP of news for CBS’ station group but will focus partly on KCBS’ woes.

In other sweeps news:

KTLA’s kiddie phenom “Pokemon” trumped everyone at 4 p.m. (6.7/16), not to mention tripling the station’s performance at that time over February 1999. “Pokemon” bested all competish, including the newscasts at KABC (6.2/14) and KNBC (5.2/13); KMEX’s talker “Cristina” (3.7/8); KCOP’s “The Montel Williams Show” (3.4/8); KCAL’s “The Newlywed Game” (2.3/5); KTTV’s “Beastmaster” (1.8/4); and “Women 2 Women.”

  • In the cut-throat 10 p.m. news hour, KTLA (4.6/8) won with little change from 1999. Second-place KTTV posted a 4.1/7 (a 25% drop from last year), while KCAL came in third with a 3.5/6. Last-place KCOP’s show, re-jigged with new anchors, went up 40% (2.1/3).

  • KTLA’s 7 a.m. “Morning News” (4.2/14), fronted by Carlos Amezcua, Barbara Beck and Mark Kriski, jumped 31%, giving KABC’s first-place “Good Morning America” (4.3/15) a run for its money and easily topping rival KTTV (2.8/10). KNBC’s “The Today Show” was third (3.6/12).

  • KABC’s “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” still pack a strong one-two punch (10.3/17, 9.3/14 respectively). But with flat numbers over last year, the gamers are leaving the field open to competitors, including KCOP’s “Frasier,” up 50% at 3.9/6.

  • KCOP reported “Smackdown” success, rising 33% in Monday-Friday primetime to a 4.4/6.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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