Fires, recall give big boost to local b'casts

Angelenos flocked to the tube to get their Jacko/Arnie/Kobe fix in November, boosting viewing levels at the market’s local TV news outlets.

The gains came in part thanks to a heavy news cycle that included catastrophic wildfires, major transit and supermarket strikes and an unprecedented gubernatorial recall election and inauguration — not to mention a wealth of tabloid-fueled headlines, from Scott Peterson’s arraignment to Michael Jackson’s arrest.

Bumps were particularly noticeable in the early evening news race. KABC, KNBC and KCBS all posted healthy double-digit gains at 5 and 6 p.m. from their performances in the May sweep.

“The news hole we’ve seen over the past five weeks has been significant,” said KNBC prexy-general manager Paula Madison. “What we were seeing were people coming home from work in November wanting to find out what was going on, whether it was, ‘Will I be able to shop at my supermarket tonight?’ or, ‘Will the buses and trains be running tomorrow?’ “

ABC-owned KABC still ruled the roost before prime access, posting first-place numbers at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Station also was tops in the market in the sign-on-to-sign-off race — despite disappointing primetime numbers from the station’s ABC parent.

“I think there’s a viewer loyalty to ‘Eyewitness News,’” said KABC prexy-general manager Arnie Kleiner. “Our people are important, but they’re part of a bigger picture.”

NBC-owned KNBC and CBS-owned KCBS, meanwhile, kicked up the competition.

Perennial ratings dog KCBS, in particular, had reason to sit up and yelp: Station, which admittedly started out from a lower ratings base, saw its numbers jump by 69% at 5 p.m. and 86% at 6 p.m.

“A lot of people found us during the fires and stayed with us during the hailstorm and during Michael Jackson,” said KCBS/KCAL news director Nancy Bauer Gonzales. “And during our recall coverage, our content was really strong. We started seeing an increase in numbers. A lot more people came to our station during that point in time.”

KNBC, meanwhile, was encouraged by a ratings recovery in the morning, where it once dominated but more recently stumbled. KTTV won the full 5 a.m. hour, while KABC took the crown at 6. But KNBC managed to bounce back to second place at 6 a.m. after a fourth-place finish in May.

Peacock station also maintained its dominance at 11 p.m. And KNBC saw growth at 3 p.m. with the syndie strip “Ellen,” which was up 170% vs. “The Other Half’s” score in the timeslot last May (KABC’s “Oprah Winfrey Show,” of course, still won the hour).

“We’re very pleased,” Madison said. “I think we’re looking at a really good story for us.”

News was less pleasant at Tribune’s KTLA and Fox’s KTTV, both of which stumbled in the 7 a.m. breakfast wars. Having both beat the national shows in May, KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.” and KTLA’s “Morning News” somehow slumped backwards to tie for third place, behind winner “Good Morning America” (KABC) and second-place “Today” (KNBC).

The battle at 10 p.m. was also a yawn, as both KTLA and KTTV –which have gone back and forth in the hour for years — settled into what appeared to be a virtual tie.

In the Spanish-lingo wars, Univision’s dominant KMEX pulled even further ahead of rival Telemundo outlet KVEA, scoring big at 6 a.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

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