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WTAE comes on strong in May sweeps

Friday, May 23, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

In a market as competitive as Pittsburgh, it seems as if each of the Big Three TV stations gets a chance to rise to the top. During May sweeps, WTAE took the lead position at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and saw average ratings increase in all weekday newscasts compared to a year ago.

Online Chart:
TV news ratings

KDKA won the top spot at noon and 11 p.m.

Ratings released yesterday by Nielsen Media Research are household ratings that reflect more a measure of popularity 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 5 p.m. newscasts on WPXI and WTAE and at 10 p.m. on WPGH and on WTAE's "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and WPXI's "Judge Judy" -- because they may influence ratings. Lottery drawings on KDKA, which may also influence ratings, are not flagged because they're telecast year-round, not only during sweeps.

Kathy Baldauf, senior media supervisor at Ten United ad agency, said this month's promotions seem to be on par from what she's seen in the past.

"They're doing a lot of the same things," she said, citing a birthday contest and call to win contest. "That's nothing new."

But John Harpur, senior vice president/corporate media development director at MARC USA, said WTAE pulled out all the stops to draw viewers to the 5 p.m. news.

"To the viewer and to us, the programs impacted are the same," Harpur said. "It's still going on in sweeps, that's not much different. ... WTAE has clearly put a full blitz against this particular May sweeps. From what we can tell preliminarily, they've really taken it to WPXI."

Morning continues to be a growth area for local news. All three stations had increased ratings at 5 and 6 a.m. compared to a year ago. Ratings measure a percentage of TV households tuned to a broadcast. Share measures the percentage of TV sets in use. Future ad rates are set based on ratings, even down to the tenth of a ratings point.

WTAE got a huge boost at 10 a.m. from "Dr. Phil," which doubled Channel 4's share of the audience in that time slot from a year ago. "Martha Stewart Living" on KDKA lost the most audience to "Dr. Phil," down 6 share points. "Montel Williams" on WPXI was down slightly.

KDKA and WTAE were basically flat at noon, with WPXI off six-tenths of a ratings point from a year ago.

At 4 p.m., "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was up 2.4 rating points from a year ago and No. 2 in the time period. The addition of news on KDKA improved the station's ratings by one rating point compared to what "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" did last May, though the station still ranked third. No. 1 "Judge Judy" on WPXI was down by 2.7 ratings points from May 2002, though its share of the audience was constant.

At 5 and 6 p.m. WTAE saw year-to-year increases (by a little more than one point), while KDKA and WPXI were down (generally less than one rating point, although KDKA was down more than a full point at 6).

In prime time, KDKA was No. 1 (up from a year ago), followed by WPXI (down), WTAE (up), WPGH (up), WCWB (down) and WNPA (flat).

WPGH saw its 10 p.m. news rating rise by one rating point from a year ago, while WNPA was off by one-tenth of a point.

At 11 p.m., KDKA had the most growth from a year ago, up more than two full rating points. WTAE was up by three-tenths of a point and WPXI was down six-tenths of a point.

In the late-night comedy battle, CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman" saw year-to-year ratings increases of 1.3 rating points, while NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was down by one-tenth of a point. In the midnight hour, ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel" gave WTAE a two-tenths of a rating point bump up.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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