May bouquet to KCBS in L.A. sweeps

Local net is news at 11 p.m.

Most of the L.A. market’s major stations had something to crow about in May, as local viewers spread the sweeps wealth around.

KCBS pulled off the biggest surprise, boosting its Monday-Sunday 11 p.m. ratings by 47% (vs. May 2004) in the key 25-54 demo and suddenly becoming competitive in late news (Daily Variety, May 27).

But the news also was decent for KNBC, which maintained its 11 p.m. lead among all English-language comers despite declining 17% and contending with a lower-rated lead-in.

Spanish-language KMEX, meanwhile, once again dominated the late news race in demos, expanding its lead in first place. And KABC saw its 25-54 ratings increase at 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. — it was the only station to see bumps in all four timeslots.

Fox-owned KTTV dominated in primetime among adults 18-49 and led the 10 p.m. news race with viewers and 25-54. Then there’s Tribune-owned KTLA, which led the 7 a.m. breakfastcast race with viewers (and tied with KTTV in 25-54).

KCBS chief Don Corsini said the changes put in place at the station over the past three years finally are paying off.

“We’re now seeing some marked improvement,” he said. “Is there a lot of work to be continued? Absolutely. (But) today, KCBS is a lot stronger TV station than it was three years ago.

“We’re finally at a point where we’re happy with our on-air team,” Corsini added. “The content is better. The coverage is better.”

Station is also more stable than it’s been in decades. Since 1985, the last time KCBS drew a second-place 11 p.m. finish in a May sweeps, the station has burned through 15 general managers.

Corsini said his strategy coming in was to work first on promoting the CBS primetime lineup as well as the station’s prime access block, figuring a rising tide lifts all boats.

Exec also said KCBS is doing a better job than ever holding on to its Eye net lead-ins. (KCBS dominated English viewers in May, with 602,000.) And while the station still lags in its afternoon newscasts, Corsini predicted that would soon change as well.

“Having ‘Dr. Phil’ running at 4 o’clock is going to have a fantastic impact,” he said. Syndie gabber moves over from KNBC this fall.

KABC topper Arnie Kleiner conceded he wasn’t pleased to finish behind KCBS in any measure, saying he’s “never happy about losing anything. I’m not happy when I lose one day in a sweep.

“Except for this big flurry of press releases from KCBS, we had a nice book,” Kleiner quipped, dismissing KCBS’ 11 p.m. results as “all network-driven. It’s all lead-in.”

That said, Kleiner noted KCBS still ranked third behind KNBC and KABC when looking at the seven-day 11 p.m. news averages.

“Monday through Sunday has always been the measure,” he said, arguing the majority of local ad time is sold against the seven-day average.

Unlike last May, when various natural disasters and other big stories had local stations scrambling to cover breaking events, Kleiner said the relative paucity of big stories during sweeps made things difficult for KABC.

“We’re a breaking-news station and there wasn’t much breaking news,” he said.

At 11 p.m., in the Monday-Sunday ratings, KMEX led in the 25-54 demo (3.2 rating/11 share), followed by KNBC (3.0/11), KABC (2.3/8), KCBS (2.2/8), KVEA (0.9/3) and KCOP (0.7/3).

KNBC was tops with viewers (441,000), then KMEX (397,000), KABC (345,000) and KCBS (343,000).

KTTV (2.2/6 in demo, 288,000 viewers) led at 10 p.m., followed by KTLA (1.4/4; 219,000) and KCAL (1.1/3; 164,000).

In early evening, KABC was No. 1 with viewers at 5 p.m. (335,000) and 6 p.m. (363,000) and in English demos, while KMEX led the 25-54 race overall at 5 p.m. (2.0/10) and 6 p.m. (2.1/9).

As for the English-language ayem wars, KTLA’s “Morning News” and KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.” tied in the demos, at 1.7/14, followed by KABC’s “Good Morning America” (1.2/10), KNBC’s “Today” (0.8/7) and KCBS’ “The Early Show” (0.3/2).

KTLA led in viewers (224,000), then KABC (212,000), KTTV (211,000), KNBC (143,000) and KCBS (51,000).