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On the Tube: Competition tight in May ratings

Friday, May 26, 2000

By Rob Owen ,Post-Gazette TV Editor

A ratings tie isn't unusual among local TV station newscasts during a sweeps month. But this May there were many.

Ratings released yesterday showed ties for first place at 6 a.m. (WTAE and WPXI) and 11 p.m. (KDKA and WPXI) and a tie for second place at 5 p.m. (KDKA and WTAE; WPXI came in first).

What's more, "Today" and "Good Morning America" were tied for first weekday mornings. Sign-on to sign-off, WTAE and WPXI were tied for second with KDKA in first place.

All these ties mean just one thing: "This has to be the most competitive market in the country and I think that's what you're seeing," said WTAE general manager Jim Hefner. "Everybody's got something to talk about and everybody's got something to be concerned about."

Those top concerns may include:

-- Every station had fewer viewers at 11 p.m. this May compared to a year ago, although WPGH's 10 p.m. newscast held steady.

-- WTAE's long-time top-rated 6 a.m. newscast was tied with WPXI's newscast, which has shown growth in the past year. KDKA's ratings in that hour were also up, while WTAE was down from May 1999.

-- The race at 6 p.m. may be the closest it's ever been, with KDKA down more than two ratings points from a year ago. KDKA remained in first place with WTAE second and WPXI third.

-- At 5 p.m. WTAE's ratings were up from a year ago while WPXI and KDKA were down.

The ratings compiled 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.

At 4 p.m. WPXI's "Judge Judy" continues to dominate, with KDKA's "Rosie O'Donnell Show" second and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" third.

In prime-time, WTAE took top honors thanks to the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" juggernaut. WPXI was second, KDKA third, WPGH fourth, WCWB fifth and WNPA sixth.

In late night "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" took the top spot, with the "Late Show with David Letterman" second ("Nightline" beats the first half-hour of Letterman's show). "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" easily outdistanced "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn."

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