KNBC closes gap in ayem; KABC tops news

Viewers strayed from the locally produced morning shows this February, while KNBC turned up the heat on market leader KABC in several timeslots, according to final Los Angeles market sweeps results.

KCBS, meanwhile, has yet to see a return on its investment in new anchor Paul Magers, who just completed his first sweeps at the station. The Eye-owned outlet’s 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts saw declines despite the addition of Magers, who was given a hefty contract to relocate from Minneapolis.

Overall news viewership appeared to be down (other than gains in certain slots for KNBC and Spanish-speaking KMEX and KVEA) in most slots. That’s partly due to last February’s heavy news cycle — which included the build-up to the Iraq conflict and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Most affected was the 10 p.m. news race, where KTTV (3.4/6, down 29%), KTLA (3.2/5, down 22%) and KCAL (2.7/4, down 18%) all suffered double-digit declines.

Ayem shuffle

As for the breakfastcast wars, KABC won the 7-9 a.m. slot with “Good Morning America” (3.9/13), while KNBC took second with “Today” (3.5/11). Third was KTLA’s “Morning News” (3.3/11).

Hurting the most was KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.,” which won the slot last February but dipped 27% this time out to finish fourth (3.0/10).

KABC continued its winning streak, leading every major news race except 11 p.m. But KNBC dramatically cut the ABC-owned station’s advantage at both 5 p.m. — where KABC posted a 5.9/12 (down 17% from 7.1/14 last year) to KNBC’s 5.2/10 (up 6% from 4.9/10) — and 6 p.m., where again KABC still won (5.7/10, down 15% from 6.7/12) but faced a tougher KNBC (5.2/9, up 6% from 4.9/8).

KNBC can partly thank afternoon syndie strips “Ellen” and “Dr. Phil,” which both posted strong year-to-year gains — particularly “Ellen,” which boosted the station’s 3 p.m. performance by 93% (vs. last year’s abysmal “The Other Half”).

But KNBC prexy-general manager Paula Madison also credited a change in direction under news director Bob Long.

“We’ve gone with a more traditional newscast than previous months,” Madison said. “And it looks as if the audience appreciates the product.”

Seven’s heaven

KABC president-G.M. Arnie Kleiner said he was proud of how his station still won the lion’s share of newscasts and finished first in the market sign-on to sign-off — despite ABC’s low-rated primetime lineup.

“This is the No. 1 station in Southern California, even though the network is fourth (among adults 18-49) in primetime,” Kleiner said. “When you think about that, it’s pretty remarkable. It really speaks to the people who work at this TV station.”

Kleiner said the victory comes even though the station has to double up on promo time due to the network’s ratings woes.

“It now takes many more spots to promote to the same number of people in primetime we used to reach in one spot,” Kleiner said. “We still persevered.”

Spanish-lingo outlets KMEX (4.5/8, up 10%) and KVEA (3.1/6, up 35%) posted healthy gains at 6 p.m.

At 11 p.m., KNBC (7.6/16, up 4%), KABC (6.5/13, down 3%) and KCBS (4.3/9, down 2%) held steady. But KCBS was presumably hoping for more from Magers. Still, it’s only the anchor’s first book, so it’s too soon to predict whether Magers will have a long-term effect at the station.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more