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KCBS' Late-Night News Gets a Push From Olympics : Television: Games propel 11 p.m. show to a ratings victory but the station badly trailed ABC and NBC in afternoon and early-morning viewing during sweeps.

March 04, 1994|STEVE WEINSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Winter Olympics on CBS helped propel KCBS-TV Channel 2's 11 p.m. news to its first victory in a ratings "sweeps" period in at least 10 years, but the whopping audience interest in the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga and other Olympic happenings did not rub off on the station's other news programs.

In fact, KCBS again badly trailed its two network-owned rivals in the afternoon and early-morning news periods with numbers that, despite the Olympic fever, were lower than for the same period last year, according to data for the February sweeps released Thursday by the A.C. Nielsen Co.

KABC-TV Channel 7 continued to lead all Los Angeles-market rivals in news at 4, 5 and 6 p.m., and it even beat the longtime early-morning news champ, KNBC-TV Channel 4, at 6 a.m.

KABC, however, finished third at 11 p.m., and its news numbers in most time periods, though comparable to those posted during last November's sweeps, were down slightly from those of February, 1993, when stormy local weather, the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Branch Davidian stand-off in Waco, Tex., inflated news ratings at all stations.

KNBC finished second behind KABC in most news time periods, but the station closed the huge gap of a year ago as its 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts grew by about 10%.

February is one of four ratings periods each year that help stations determine advertising rates. But local television executives caution that while these totals are important for bragging rights, most ad buys are made to target specific demographic groups and not simply to reach the most households.

KABC continued to benefit from the huge advantage provided by "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at 3 p.m., which more than doubles the audience of any of its competitors, including KNBC's "Sally Jessy Raphael." Channel 7 won the 4 p.m. news battle over KNBC by a margin of more than 135,000 households.

At 5 p.m., however, KNBC's audience picked up, closing Channel 7's lead to just over 55,000 homes--last year KABC lead by almost three times that much--with KCBS another 125,000 homes behind.

At 6 p.m., Channel 7 led KNBC by about 75,000 homes and KCBS by about 140,000 households.

*

Among the networks, CBS easily won the February sweeps in prime time, grabbing an average 35% of the available audience, compared to 17% for ABC, 16% for NBC and 11% for Fox. During its 16-day coverage of the Olympics, CBS averaged an incredible 42% share of the prime-time audience, which increased the network's audience for the month some 48% over totals last year.

Thanks to CBS' Olympics bonanza, KCBS' 11 p.m. news audience leaped 60% over a year ago, winning the time period with an average of 500,000 households each night. KNBC was second with about 360,000 homes and KABC was third with 330,000 homes.

During the two weeks without the Olympics, however, the standings reverted to form as KCBS lost 40% of its audience to fall into third. KABC was first.

Among independents, KTLA-TV Channel 5 continued to shine. Its morning news easily beat the three network morning shows from 7 to 9 a.m., and it more than quadrupled the audience of KTTV-TV Channel 11's upstart local program. And at 10 p.m., Channel 5 hung on to its longtime lead in news with an average of about 265,000 homes each night. KTTV was second with about 200,000, KCAL-TV Channel 9 was third with about 130,000 and KCOP-TV Channel 13 was fourth with an average of 105,000.

Perhaps the biggest winner during last month's ratings period was KTTV's children's show, "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," which improved the station's numbers about 45% over its programming in the 5 p.m. time period last year. "The Power Rangers," which has become a national phenomenon in the tradition of the Ninja Turtles and He-Man, won the 5 p.m. time period over all local newscasts--the first time in years that a non-news program has taken that honor.

In what seemed like the greatest month in tabloid TV history, KABC's old reliables, "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune," nonetheless captured the important 7- to 8-p.m. hour.

KNBC's "Entertainment Tonight" was second behind "Jeopardy" at 7 p.m., followed by KCBS' "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol" which scored almost twice the audience the station drew last year with Bill Cosby's "You Bet Your Life." KCAL's "Inside Edition," which reportedly paid more than $500,000 for the interviews with Harding it aired last month, ended up in last place in the time period, losing 33% of its audience from a year ago.

At 7:30 p.m., KNBC's "Hard Copy," which sent co-anchor Terry Murphy to Norway to cover the Harding-Kerrigan soap opera, finished a strong second to "Wheel of Fortune," but KTTV's "A Current Affair," which focused heavily on the criminal investigation of Harding and scored paid-for interviews with her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, lost audience from a year ago and finished sixth in the time period.

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