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On The Tube: Ratings bring good news for WPXI

Friday, May 28, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

WPXI saw strong ratings advances in May, while WTAE faltered.

WPXI came out on top at 5 p.m. with KDKA in second place and WTAE in third. That's a reversal from recent sweeps months when WTAE has come in second and WPXI third.

At 6 p.m. KDKA was No. 1, with WPXI second and WTAE third. Again, WPXI and WTAE switched positions from the past two sweeps periods. At 11 p.m., KDKA was first, WPXI second and WTAE third.

The ratings released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research are household ratings that reflect more a measure of popularity rather than a basis for advertising rates. TV commercials are generally sold on demographic ratings, which won't be available for several weeks.

In its ratings book, Nielsen flags contests, including those during newscasts on WPXI and WTAE, because they may influence ratings. Lottery drawings on KDKA, which may also influence ratings, are not flagged because they're telecast year-round rather than only during sweeps months.

Whatever the reason for the change in WPXI's fortunes -- increased ratings from news lead-in "Judge Judy," more money given away in the station's contests or better promotions and sweeps features -- the station's rise mirrors WTAE's decline.

Although WTAE continues to lead in the morning (WPXI comes in second, KDKA third) and places second at noon (KDKA is No. 1, WPXI rates No. 3), the station is flopping at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., down in all three time periods compared to February sweeps and on par or down from May sweeps 1998.

Part of the station's downturn in its evening newscast ratings may be attributable to the erosion of ratings for news lead-in "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "Oprah" has dropped to third at 4 p.m. behind a double run of "Judge Judy" on WPXI and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" on KDKA.

May sweeps proved a disappointment for WPGH also, with its 10 p.m. ratings down from February sweeps and May 1998.

At 6:30 p.m. the second half-hour of KDKA's local news beat out WPXI's "NBC Nightly News" (No. 2) and WTAE's "ABC World News Tonight" (No. 3).

At 7 p.m. WPXI's "Jeopardy!" was on top, as usual, with "The CBS Evening News" in second place and "Inside Edition" on WTAE in third. At 7:30 p.m. "Wheel of Fortune" on WPXI landed in the top spot, with "Hollywood Squares" on KDKA second and "Entertainment Tonight" on WTAE third.

NBC's "The Tonight Show" won at 11:35 p.m., with "Nightline" second and "The Late Show with David Letterman" third. The second half of "Letterman" beat ABC's "Politically Incorrect." "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" on WPXI attracted more viewers than "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn" on KDKA.

"The Jerry Springer Show" may be losing its appeal, at least in its 11 a.m. showing on WPGH, which is down compared to February 1999. The 5 p.m. showing on WCWB was up slightly.

Every non-prime-time show on UPN affiliate WNPA continues to garner less than a 1.0 rating (more people watch "Barney and Friends" and "Teletubbies" on WQED), except the double run of "Judge Joe Brown" at 7 p.m., "The Newlywed Game" at 2 p.m. and "Change of Heart" at 11 p.m.

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