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Game Shows Sweeten the Pot for Sweeps Period

THE SWEEPS: One in a series examining the TV industry's periodic ratings rituals.

February 05, 1988|STEVE WEINSTEIN

BY ANY OTHER NAME: Matching sweeps gimmick for sweeps gimmick with KABC-TV Channel 7, which used the Super Bowl last Sunday to mysteriously promote the arrival of new political commentator Rose Bird, KCBS-TV renamed its newscast "The Channel 2 Action News" this week.

Hoping to resurrect the success of the station's "Big News" back in the early days of local TV journalism and to improve its lackluster performance in the last several ratings sweeps, Robert Hyland, KCBS' general manager, rechristened his newscasts in an effort to break out of the jumble of stations that identify their news solely by their number on the television dial.

In Los Angeles, only KABC's top-rated "Eyewitness News" and KTTV Channel 11's relatively new "Fox News" identify themselves with distinct handles.

The concept of "Action News" has been used by stations in other parts of the country. But while "Action News" usually connotes newscasts packed with a rapid-fire flurry of highly visual stories dealing mostly with violent crime, fires and traffic accidents, Hyland believes that local viewers have no preconceptions about the name.

A KCBS spokeswoman said that an informal survey of viewers here over the past few months indicated that they thought "Action News" suggested aggressive, investigative reporting and on-the-spot coverage of breaking stories--exactly the type of serious, no-frills approach to news that the station has been championing since its soft, feature-oriented "news wheel" format failed miserably in the fall of 1986.

Timed with the beginning of the February sweeps, KCBS has also launched a full-scale media blitz, including more than 600 billboards all over Southern California and print, radio and on-air promotions designed to bring news viewers back to the station. For the past few years, Channel 2 has been running a distant third in the news ratings race among the three network-owned stations.

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