WWOR overtakes vet in news derby

NEW YORK — Fox O&O WNYW New York found out the hard way that nothing lasts forever.

For the first time in sweeps history, WNYW’s weeknight hourlong newscast at 10 failed to finish ahead of its two local rivals for the primetime news crown. Chris Craft’s WWOR beat out WNYW for the hour by a tenth of a ratings point, with Tribune’s WPIX a distant third. While WWOR held its 10 p.m. aud year to year, WNYW was off by 15% in the ratings from the previous May; WPIX plummeted by 31%.

One bit of irony to the upheaval at 10: Fox is about to take over Chris Craft, so both WNYW and WWOR will soon be under the Fox umbrella. Rather than allowing the two to continue beating each other’s brains out with expensive local news hours at 10, Fox may scuttle one of the two and counterprogram the time period with sitcom reruns.

Among the Big Three O&Os, WABC overtook WNBC in local news Monday through Friday from 5-6 p.m. and from 6-6:30 p.m., finishing first in both slots this May after stumbling to second place a year ago. While WABC stayed even in the ratings from May 2000 to May 2001, WNBC fell by 13% at 5 and by 17% at 6. WCBS’ news is not even remotely competitive, averaging less than half the audience of each of its rivals and plunging by 29% in the ratings at 5 and by 25% at 6.

In the even more lucrative half-hour newscast at 11 p.m., WNBC remained No. 1 and WABC No. 2 year to year. But WNBC’s rating dropped by 18%, WABC’s by 14% from last May. WCBS’ newscast stayed flat at a 4.3 rating, but that number was less than half the rating of its O&O competitors.

The growing Hispanic presence in New York was a boon to the 11 p.m. newscasts of the city’s two Spanish-language stations: Univision’s WXTV soared by 55% from last May to finish seventh and Telemundo’s WNJU shot up by 58% to come in at No. 8.

The exodus of viewers from the six VHF stations stands out dramatically among the series that compete weeknights at 7 and 7:30: Except for “Hollywood Squares” on WCBS (off by only 1%), all are down by double-digit percentages from May 2000.

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