‘Cheers’ propels WNBC news to N.Y. Arbitron win

Bolstered by a strong NBC prime time sweeps and the monstrous “Cheers” finale, WNBC’s “News 4 New York” dethroned WABC’s “Eyewitness News” for the 11 p.m. Arbitron ratings crown.

The bad news for the New York market is that overall late news viewing dropped fairly significantly compared to May 1992.

“News 4” was the only Gotham newscast to improve over last May, climbing 12% to a 10.5 rating and 20 share (although virtually all of that growth was due to a 26.4/45 showing the night of the last “Cheers”). “Eyewitness” slipped 9% in Arbitron, down to 10.2/19, while WCBS’s “Channel 2 News at 11” stumbled 12% to 7 .4/14.

(Viewers were either switching to cable or turning the set off, since the indies also suffered at 11 — WPIX’s “Cheers” was down 20% to 5.3/10, WNYW’s “MASH” was off 8% to 4.6/9 and WWOR’s “Real Highway Patrol” at 3.0/6 was 14% off last year’s “227” showing.)

In the indie news race at 10 p.m., market leader WNYW held steady at 6.8/11, while WPIX dropped 12% to a 4.4/7 and WWOR fell 3% to 3.5/5.

Although WABC maintained control of first place in the early news, it suffered fall-off in the Arbitron totals there as well: The 5 p.m. newscast was down 10% to 9.2/22; the 6 p.m. newscast fell 5% to 9.8/22.

By contrast, WCBS’s 5 o’clock news was up 24% to 5.2/20 and its 6 p.m. broadcast climbed 6% to 5.6/12. That growth put both newscasts within striking distance of WNBC — the Peacock affil’s 5 p.m. news show dipped 8% to 5.7/14, while the 6 p.m. broadcast improved by 3% to 6.1/14.

While WABC still dominates the hour before prime time with veteran powerhouses “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” one noteworthy change in that block was WNBC’s addition of “Cops” at 7 p.m. — the reality show outscored its predecessor, “Now It Can Be Told,” by 23%, putting the Peacock affil a competitive third behind WCBS’s “Hard Copy.”

In the indie battle, both WNYW and WPIX achieved mixed results with their additions to the 5-8 lineup. Both did well from 5-6 p.m. — WPIX’s “Saved by the Bell”/”Charles in Charge” block still led the way, but WNYW grew 12% year-to-year by replacing “Jane” with “Montel Williams.

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