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'Oprah' Reclaims Throne in L.A. During May Sweeps

Television: Talk show's ratings push KABC news at 4 p.m. to the top. Leno doubles Letterman's audience.

May 23, 1997|STEVE WEINSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Local viewers came this month to praise Oprah, not to bury her, as the perennial queen of daytime talk recovered from her first defeat ever in Los Angeles last February to easily beat back the challenge of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," according to ratings released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research for the May sweeps.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show's"resurgence also propelled KABC-TV Channel 7 back into the lead in news at 4 p.m., albeit a narrow one.

But Channel 7 and KNBC-TV Channel 4 still wound up splitting the news battles--each winning the top spot in three news time periods--leaving the Southland with no clear favored source for TV news.

The May sweeps, which ended Wednesday night, are one of four annual ratings periods used by local stations to help set advertising rates--and to establish bragging rights until the next one comes along.

Buoyed by "Rosie's" success in the 3 p.m. lead-in spot, KNBC-TV Channel 4 had captured the title of most popular early news the past two sweeps. But after trailing last February by about 40,000 homes, "Oprah" increased its KABC audience by 22% this month to knock off "Rosie" by about 70,000 households.

That big lead-in advantage enabled Channel 7 to squeeze out a 4 p.m. news victory by 10,000 homes.

KABC also scored victories in news at 6 p.m. and during the midday for its newscast at 11:30 a.m. KNBC, meanwhile, won in the early morning, at 5 p.m. and in the lucrative 11 p.m. half-hour.

Their other rival, KCBS-TV Channel 2, finished third in all head-to-head battles, although the station is a bit closer at 11 p.m., despite the rather dismal prime-time showing of CBS in the Los Angeles market, where it placed a distant fourth on weekdays behind NBC, ABC and Fox.

KCBS' hourlong 6 p.m. newscast continues to struggle, however, bested again by KMEX-TV Channel 34's hour of news in Spanish by more than one rating point (which represents 49,424 homes). KMEX continued to stand as the market's top-ranked Spanish-language broadcaster.

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Fox's ongoing strength in prime time lifted KTTV-TV Channel 11 to another victory in news at 10 p.m. The station outdrew longtime independent news champion KTLA-TV Channel 5 by an average of 35,000 homes a night, even though its prime-time lead over Channel 5 going into news is a whopping 250,000 households.

Without that disadvantage in the morning, KTLA's 7-9 a.m. newscast leaped back into first place this month, topping "Today" on KNBC, which had ruled the morning last February thanks to the popularity of its new anchor, Matt Lauer. KABC's "Good Morning America" came in third, KTTV's "Good Day, L.A." was fourth and KCBS' combination of network and local news finished last.

CBS' network stars continued to flounder in L.A. throughout the day. Dan Rather's network newscast at 5:30 p.m. on KCBS attracted less than half the audience of his rivals--155,000 homes compared to 360,000 for Peter Jennings' broadcast at 6:30 p.m. on KABC and 310,000 for Tom Brokaw's show on KNBC.

And "The Late Show With David Letterman" on KCBS again lost big to Jay Leno and "The Tonight Show" on KNBC. Leno more than doubled Letterman's late-night audience, while "Nightline" on KABC finished a close second, lagging by a mere 15,000 homes. KABC's "Politically Incorrect," "Jerry Springer" and "Maury Povich" on KCAL and reruns of "MASH" and "Cops" on KTTV also beat Letterman.

Earlier in the evening, nearly all of the tabloid entertainment programs, once hot properties here, lost audience compared to February. "Extra" at 7 p.m. on KNBC scored higher ratings than KCBS' "Hard Copy" and KCAL's "Inside Edition" in head-to-head competition, and it pulled in more viewers than "Entertainment Tonight" did at 7:30 p.m. on KCBS.

Venerable "Entertainment Tonight," despite the celebration of anchor Mary Hart's 15th anniversary with the show, even lost to Channel 4's upstart "Access Hollywood."

And none of those real-life news and gossip shows even come close in the 7-8 hour to KABC's indefatigable tandem of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" or to KTTV's reruns of "Home Improvement" and "The Simpsons." In fact, "Wheel of Fortune" easily beat the combined audience of "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood" at 7:30 p.m., and proved to be the Southland's most popular show outside of prime time.

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