Quake jolts sweeps

KABC leads as stations scramble for coverage

First place was tough to call among L.A. newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. Wednesday, the last day of the February ratings sweep, as stations scrambled to cover the earthquake in the Pacific Northwest.

Nancy Bauer Gonzales, VP/news director for Los Angeles NBC O&O KNBC, said her station’s 11 a.m. newscast was just rolling when they got word of the earthquake rocking the Seattle area. The station’s news coverage of the quake continued through most of the day.

All the while, ratings for KNBC’s news at 5 p.m. were close to catching ABC O&O KABC’s 5 p.m. news — a feat that would break the Alphabet station’s six-sweep winning streak for 4, 5 and 6.

Still, Bauer Gonzales said when a story like that breaks, whether during sweeps or not, the pressure is just to cover it.

“When I look up at the pictures, I don’t have thoughts like, ‘I’m glad it happened today instead of tomorrow,'” Bauer Gonzales said. “I just wish it didn’t happen.”

Margin narrows

Not counting what for some L.A. stations was nearly nonstop coverage of the quake Wednesday, KABC had the 4, 5 and 6 p.m. ratings crowns by a slimmer margin than last February.

At 5 p.m., KABC averaged a 5.7 household rating/12 share while KNBC averaged a 5.5/12 for 27 of the sweep’s 28 days, according to Nielsen.

Although the powerhouse stations were tops for the time period in Los Angeles, the perfs reflect dips in rating and share compared to February 2000. At 5, KABC is down 23% in rating and 20% in share, while KNBC is down 19% in rating and 14% in share.

CBS-owned KCBS, which was the only of the Big Three net-affil stations in the market to improve its 4, 5, and 6 p.m. perfs from February 2000, was next with its 5 p.m. newscast. It drew a 2.9/6, up 26% in rating and 20% in share.

The CBS station apparently is reaping the benefit of adding “Judge Judy” to its sked as the 4-5 p.m. news lead-in. “Judy’s” perf, a 2.6/6, is up 117% in rating and 100% in share from the time period perf last year, when local news product “Women to Women” was airing there.

KCBS also recently added anchor Harold Greene and weatherman Jim Castillo to its 5 p.m. lineup.

At 4 p.m. KABC was averaging a 5.2/13 with its news, dipping slightly from its “Oprah” lead-in perf of 5.5/16 from 3-4 p.m.

KNBC earned a 3.9/10 at 4 p.m., following a lower-than-usual perf by talker “Rosie O’Donnell,” which earned a 2.4/7. “Rosie” is down 40% in rating and 36% in share from February 2000.

At 6 p.m., KABC’s half-hour news led with 6.7/12, followed by KNBC, with a 6.3/12.

KMEX in third place

Local Spanish-lingo news on Univision’s KMEX was next, with a 4.6/8, followed by KCBS, with a 2.8/5.

Spanish-lingo news on Telemundo’s KVEA earned a 1.9/3 at 6 p.m.

The 10 p.m. battle for the top newscast between Fox’s KTTV and Trib’s WB affil KTLA, traditionally hotly contested, was in a dead heat on the day of the quake, just as KNBC and KABC were at 5 p.m.

KTTV and KTLA both were registering a 4.2/7 Monday-Friday 10 p.m. average, while KTTV was at a 4.4/7 for Monday-Sunday at 10 and KTLA was at a 4.1/7.

Wednesday’s finale of “Temptation Island” is the lead-in to Fox’s last 10 p.m. newscast of the sweep, which Fox hopes will help tip the scales in its favor.

Indie KCAL’s news at 10 p.m. is third Monday-Friday, with a 2.5/4, followed by UPN affil KCOP at 2.0/3.

Other races of interest include the ayem news, which was won by KNBC’s “Today in L.A.,” featuring the last days of longtime anchor duo Kent Shockneck and Kathy Vara. On Monday, Vara will segue to anchor/reporter duties at KABC (Daily Variety, Feb. 28).

KNBC led the market by considerable margins at 5 a.m., 5:30 a.m. and from 6-7 a.m.

From 7-9 a.m. NBC’s “Today,” with a 3.9/13 perf on KNBC, took over the top spot, which ABC’s “Good Morning America” held last year.

“Good Morning America” on KABC slipped to a 3.5/12 and third place, behind KTLA’s local “Morning News,” which earned a 3.8/13.

Fox-owned KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.,” which in November won the 7-9 a.m. slot for the first time during a sweep, was fourth, with a 3.0/10.

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