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KDKA rebounds in ratings

Friday, May 25, 2001

By Rob Owen , Post-Gazette TV Editor

After WPXI's Feburary sweeps dominance, newscast ratings for the local stations returned to the more typical horse race in May. KDKA reclaimed the No. 1 position at 6 p.m. and WTAE didn't lose to WPXI at 6 a.m. -- but the NBC and ABC stations did tie.

During sweeps month each station's viewership is measured to set future advertising rates. 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.

WTAE took a break from its contest in February, but the contest returned this month. The station's 5 p.m. ratings declined anyway. WPXI came in first, WTAE was second and KDKA third.

Among programs leading into the 5 p.m. news, KDKA got no help from "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," whose ratings declined by more than one full rating point from last year. Ratings for "Oprah Winfrey" on WTAE were up a hair, but ratings for WPXI's "Judge Judy," though still tops in the time period, were down.

At 6 p.m., KDKA was on top with WPXI second and WTAE third.

Among the network newscasts in direct competition, "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" beat ABC's "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings," but both had lower ratings than they had last May.

ABC didn't help WTAE's late news. ABC performed poorly in prime time nationally in May and ranked third place in Pittsburgh, too, giving WTAE the weakest 10 p.m. lead-in of all three stations.

In a teleconference earlier this week, ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Lloyd Braun said improving the 10 p.m. time period was a priority in the coming season.

"We took a hard look at the 10 p.m. time periods because those are very important to our affiliates," Braun said. "We think we've done a really good job of shoring those up."

NBC's prime-time was No. 1 in Pittsburgh and powered WPXI to a win at 11 p.m. with KDKA second and WTAE third. KDKA improved most on its lead-in, while WPXI declined most from its lead-in.

The one constant in local news is continuing ratings erosion. The 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on all three channels saw their ratings drop compared to a year ago even as the number of homes using television increased at 5 and 6 p.m. Fewer people were glued to the tube at 11 p.m.

Conversely, viewers are turning on their television sets earlier in the morning. Ratings for news on all three stations were up in the 6 a.m. hour and more people were watching television at that time.

Though fewer homes had the TV on at 10 p.m. compared to a year ago, ratings for WPGH's "Ten O'Clock News" rose.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

Thursday, May 24, 2001

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