KNBC to Phil its news slot

K-W deal to help Peacock in 4 p.m. slot with talker

KNBC Los Angeles will ax its 4 p.m. newscast in September 2002 to make room for upcoming syndie strip “Dr. Phil.” Move means the L.A. local news battle at 4 p.m. will become a one-horse race, with KABC the only entry.

KNBC, which also recently picked up a syndie version of “Weakest Link,” announced on Monday a deal with King World, which is distributing “Dr. Phil,” to air the show starring “Oprah” regular Dr. Phil McGraw at 4 p.m. next year.

The station’s news at 4 will remain intact until September 2002. The anchors of the hourlong newscast, Michele Ruiz and Chuck Henry, will continue to anchor the 6 p.m. news.

“We’ve put together some research that showed that since May 1992, 4-5 p.m. news for everyone has been dropping,” KNBC general manager Paula Madison told Daily Variety. “This May was the lowest for both us and KABC. What we couldn’t ignore is that at 4 p.m., KCBS added ‘Judge Judy’ and, of the three of us, was the station that went up in the ratings.”

During the May ratings sweep, KNBC’s hourlong 4 p.m. newscast was down 30% year-on-year to a 2.8 household rating, according to Nielsen. KABC was down 35% to a 4.1.

KCBS, which aired news program “Women to Women” in the time period in May 2000, was up more than 250% during both half-hours of “Judge Judy” to a 2.0 for the first half-hour and a 2.4 for the second half-hour.

“News viewing patterns have changed … while viewership for news has decreased, it’s not that audiences are turning the TV off. They’re selecting programs other than local news because we have a 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. news, and network news at 6:30 p.m.,” Madison said. “With that heavy programming oriented to local news at that time of day, we’ve saturated the market.”

Move toward infotainment

Madison said the station picked “Dr. Phil” to make the transition to info-oriented entertainment because the concept already has a track record in the form of McGraw’s Tuesday appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In Los Angeles, she said, “Oprah” ratings track about a full rating point higher on Tuesdays, when McGraw is featured, than on any other day of the week.

She also said she sees the McGraw vehicle as a strong news lead-in for the 5 p.m. infocast, as “Oprah” has been for other stations across the country.

The lead-in to the 4 p.m. news on KNBC now, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” has seen larger ratings declines lately than the newscast it feeds, dropping 51% May-to-May. Skein, which competes with “Oprah” on KABC at 3 p.m., is skedded to finish its run after the 2001-02 TV season concludes.

Madison said she has looked at all of the upcoming syndicated programming being offered thus far, including the Caroline Rhea-led talker Warner Bros. is pitching to replace “Rosie,” and has not yet decided what she will purchase.

KNBC’s recent syndie buys include “The Other Half,” from NBC, and Buena Vista’s “Iyanla,” which will preem this fall.

In addition to the previously announced pickups by such CBS stations as WCBS New York, “Dr. Phil” also has been cleared on Hearst-Argyle TV stations in Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Baltimore, Kansas City and Cincinnati.

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