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KABC New King of Late-Night News : Television: The station steals first place from KNBC in July sweeps, A. C. Nielsen report shows.


KABC-TV Channel 7 recaptured the late-night news crown from KNBC-TV Channel 4 while maintaining its lead in most other news time periods during the just completed July ratings sweeps, data from thC. Nielsen Co. showed Thursday.

KNBC lost one-third of its audience for the 11 p.m. news from the previous sweeps period in May, when the huge tune-in for the "Cheers" finale boosted the local newscast to a big lead over its rivals. Meanwhile, KABC's 11 p.m. news ratings, aided by a first-place finish for the ABC network's prime-time schedule, remained relatively stable.

KABC also won at 4, 5 and 6 p.m., taking advantage of the whopping lead-in provided by "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at 3 p.m., which more than doubled the local audience of KNBC's "Donahue." Despite a new anchor line-up and a new news director, KNBC's numbers for those newscasts were down or flat from its performance a year ago, when the station broadcast the Summer Olympics. KNBC remained competitive at 5 p.m., while slipping further behind at 4 and 6 p.m.

In the Arbitron ratings, however, Channel 4 was able to overcome the "Oprah" handicap to win the 5 p.m. news match. Channel 7 won the 4, 6 and 11 p.m. races in that ratings service.

KCBS Channel 2, which has been operating for the last several months without a news director, remained a distant third in all news time periods. At 11 p.m., the station lost in Nielsen not only to the KABC and KNBC newscasts but also to reruns of "Cheers" on KTLA-TV Channel 5, "Cops" on KTTV-TV Channel 11 and "Jane Whitney" on KCAL-TV Channel 9.

In the 6 a.m. news race, Channel 4 beat back two newcomers and two established rivals in both ratings services. KABC was second, while KTLA, which entered the fray in June, took third over KCBS. KTTV, which also debuted in this time period in June, finished last.

"The KTLA Morning News" rolled along at 7 a.m., demolishing upstart KTTV's "Good Day L.A." by a 5-to-1 margin. As usual, Channel 5's lighthearted news and breakfast gabfest beat all three network morning shows with a 21% share of the audience, compared to 15% for "Good Morning America" on KABC, 12% for "Today" on KNBC and 8% for "This Morning" on KCBS. KTTV's morning effort managed 4%.

Among the independents, KTLA increased its lead in the 10 p.m. news period over a year ago, grabbing an average of 300,000 homes each night as measured by Nielsen. KCAL saw its audience grow nearly 40% in the time period to move the station into second--about 95,000 households behind Channel 5. KTTV's audience at 10 p.m. also grew slightly, but the station nonetheless dropped into a close third. KCOP-TV Channel 13 finished fourth, but overall, news viewing of these four stations at that hour was up 25% over last summer.

In Arbitron, which showed KTTV nipping KCAL for second in the time period, the ratings increase at 10 p.m. was minimal.

The July sweeps is one of four annual ratings periods used by some local stations to set advertising rates. Since summer television viewing habits differ significantly from the rest of the year, however, the July book is generally considered less critical than those of November, February and May.

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