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KTLA's 'News at 10' Gaining on KTTV

Television: Education series helps boost latest ratings; KNBC's 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts still on top.

May 28, 1999|PAUL BROWNFIELD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In what KTLA-TV Channel 5 is spinning as evidence that ratings sweeps periods don't have to be overloaded with sensationalized "special reports," the television station's 20-part series on the public school system helped boost ratings for its "News at 10" broadcast in May.

Though KTLA's rival, KTTV-TV's "News at 10," held its winning streak by ending the May sweeps with a higher rating for the 10-11 p.m. time period, the traditionally hot race between the two was extremely close, with KTLA retaining more of its prime-time lead-in audience than the Fox outlet.

KTLA news director Jeff Wald was quick to point to the education series as proof that local stations can take the high road during sweeps.

"We did this 20-part education series, [which] sounds dull, but it was really good information to help people get their kids through the school system," he said.

But Jose Rios, news director at KTTV, which in May offered special reports on "children of addiction" and stolen birth certificates, didn't see KTLA's series as anything approaching a change in the way local news stations handle sweeps.

"That's an easy way to spin a story, but if they were doing so well then why didn't they win?" he said of KTLA.

Beyond that showdown for local bragging rights, KNBC-TV rode to victory once again at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., with the 11 p.m. newscast capitalizing on a strong performance by the network's prime-time lineup, including the highly rated miniseries "Noah's Ark." KABC-TV, which didn't benefit as much from the network's own blockbuster miniseries, "Cleopatra," finished second, while KCBS-TV, which juggled its anchor lineup in late April, finished a distant third.

The May sweeps are one of four annual ratings periods used by stations to set advertising rates.

Declining viewership amid defections to cable and the Internet, a much-discussed topic among the networks, was felt locally as well, with Spanish-language KMEX-TV the only local station showing overall growth.

Down as well from a year ago were two of KCAL-TV's popular syndicated shows, "Judge Judy" at 3 p.m. and "The Jerry Springer Show" at 11 p.m. News of Springer's sagging sweeps performance comes amid the decision Wednesday by the show's distributor, Studios USA, to cut out the guest fisticuffs that have long been a "Springer" staple. And in the 3 p.m. talk-show battle between Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell, Winfrey still came out on top, though Winfrey's numbers were down 18% from a year ago, while O'Donnell's were up 2%.

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