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KCOP showed the strongest demographics growth during the May sweeps in the key early fringe and access dayparts, while KNBC-TV’s late news benefited from a strong network prime time performance.

KCBS-TV and KTLA, meanwhile, were left licking their wounds. The O&O’s news was in big trouble coming out of the sweeps, and KTLA’s early fringe sked experienced major year-to-year declines.

And although KNBC insisted that “Hard Copy” had experienced some erosion when it chose to drop the show last week, the program finished up in most major year-to-year demo tests.

The tabloid show, which is shifting along with “Entertainment Tonight” next year to KCBS-TV, finished first among 5-8 p.m. shows in the key women 25-54 demo , according to Nielsen.

The tabloid program garnered a 5.9 rating, putting it ahead of KABC’s “Wheel of Fortune” (5.8) and “Jeopardy!” (5.6).

“Hard Copy” also jumped nearly a full rating point from the previous May, finishing with a 4.9 rating/13 share among adults 25-54 in Nielsen. Arbitron showed it ticking up a few notches to a 4.5/11 among adults 25-54.

While the program declined slightly to a 3.2/8 among adults 18-49 in Arbitron , it gained several tenths to a 3.6/10 in Nielsen.

“ET,” meanwhile, was down anywhere from a few tenths to more than half a point in those categories.

Despite its age, KCOP’s “The Cosby Show” at 6:30 p.m. finished fourth in women 25-54 with a 4.6 rating, followed by “ET” with a 4.5.

Arbitron, however, showed “Wheel” out front in the closely watched older women’s category with a 6.9, followed by “Jeopardy!” (6.6), “Hard Copy” (5.2), KCOP’s off-net “Roseanne” (4.4) and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (4.1).

In men 25-54, Nielsen showed KCOP’s “Star Trek: TNG” rerun strip winning in both services (a 4.4 in Nielsen and a 4.5 in Arbitron), with KTTV’s “Married … With Children” tying it for first place in Nielsen.

KTLA’s aging “Cheers” stood up well in the category, with a 4.1 in Nielsen and a second-place 4.4 in Arbitron.

“Hard Copy” and “Jeopardy!” answered with a 3.9 in Nielsen, while the 6 p.m. edition of “Married” captured a 4.3. The 7 p.m. run of the raunchy sitcom tied with “Wheel” at a 4.2.

The early evening O&O newscasts were heavily skewed by comparisons to the inflated May ’92 riot ratings. Indies, however, had mixed results in the May-to-May 5-8 p.m. early fringe/access results.

In adults 25-54, KCOP jumped 15% in Nielsen and 11% in Arbitron, while KTTV leapt 11% in Nielsen and 14% in Arbitron.

KTLA and KCAL-TV were hurting in the key daypart, with KTLA down a whopping 25% in Nielsen and 33% in Arbitron — a likely indication of major fall programming changes ahead.

The story was similar in adults 18-49, with KCOP pulling off a 25% year-to-year increase in Nielsen and a 14% gain in Arbitron. KTTV was next with a 16% rise in Nielsen and 5% boost in Arbitron.

KTLA slid a hefty 21% in Nielsen and 23% in Arbitron, while KCAL was down 11% in both services.

The individual programs turning in the biggest increases year-to-year in adults 25-54 were “Roseanne” in Nielsen (up 1.4 points) and “Married” in Arbitron (up 1.8 points).

KCBS-TV’s “Love Connection” had to endure the most unfair of comparisons, with its lackluster 7 p.m. perf matched up against the monstrous “Wheel” a year earlier when the gameshow appeared on the CBS O&O. Consequently, “Love” was the biggest Nielsen loser in the 25-54 group, down 2.5 points.

KTLA’s “Full House” was the largest non-news reject in Arbitron, with the off-net sitcom slipping 1.7 points from the previous May.

Among adults 18-49, the biggest winners were “Roseanne” and “Married” in Nielsen (up 1.4 points) and “Cheers” in Arbitron (up 1.6 points).

The biggest non-news drop in Nielsen went to “Love Connection,” down a full 2 points, while “Love” kissed off 1.1 points in Arbitron to rank as the biggest non-news loser.

Buoyed by the hype from at least three major special events during the May book — the “Cheers” finale, Bob Hope’s birthday spec and the final “Quantum Leap”– KNBC established a significant lead in the late news demos.

Among the 25-54 crowd, it ranked 1.6 points ahead of second-place KABC in Nielsen and 2 points ahead in Arbitron.

Elsewhere in the late news 25-54 race, indies KTLA and KTTV (tied at a 3.0) finished ahead of O&O KCBS (2.2) in Nielsen.

Arbitron showed KTLA in third with a 3.8, ahead of KCBS (3.6) and KTTV (2.6).

KCAL’s 10 p.m. news collected a 2.0 in Nielsen and a 1.7 in Arbitron, while KCOP finished with a 1.2 in Nielsen and a 1.4 in Arbitron.