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Familiar Winners in Heated Local Races

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Fierce local news battles dominated the November sweeps in the local arena, with KABC-TV maintaining its afternoon news dominance and KNBC-TV staying on top of the important 11 p.m. competition, according to local Nielsen figures released Thursday.

There were several twists and turns during the month--the most notable being the ongoing 10 p.m. face-off between KTLA-TV and KTTV-TV. The race came down to the wire on the last day of the sweeps period, with the two stations locked in a virtual tie at the end for the top-rated 10 p.m. newscast for the Monday-through-Friday competition.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Dec. 01, 2001 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday December 1, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
KMEX ratings--A story in Friday’s Calendar about local TV ratings incorrectly reported the figures for KMEX-TV’s prime-time ratings during the November sweeps. The Spanish-language station saw its audience drop by 0.8 ratings points, to 5.2, compared with the same period last year.

Both stations scored a 4.0 rating and a 7% audience share.

Executives at KTTV claimed victory, saying that KTLA (owned by Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times) had been celebrating the day before the end of sweeps that it was ahead in the race.

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“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” news director Jose Rios said. “But seriously, we don’t just worry about being No. 1. We worry about putting on the best newscast we can.”

KTLA general manager John Reardon said, “I’m very pleased with our performance. We’re up over last year.”

At 11 p.m., KNBC came in first for the 22nd consecutive sweeps, ahead of second-place KABC and third-place KCBS. KABC and its afternoon “Eyewitness News” continued its long-standing victories over KNBC and KCBS. Although KCBS has traditionally struggled in the afternoon, the addition of lead-in “Judge Judy” is helping feed viewers into the station’s 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, which experienced a 30% jump in ratings and a 25% increase in share from last November.

Executives at KNBC also pointed out that their 4 p.m. newscast in November was hurt somewhat by the dismal ratings for the “Rosie O’Donnell Show,” which scored its lowest ratings during a major sweeps period since its debut in July 1996. Despite the disadvantage, the KNBC news built on its audience later in the afternoon.

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Also showing varying degrees of improvement in viewership was the three-hour KCAL-TV news block. The 8 p.m. newscast increased 7% in its ratings from last November, while the 9 p.m. newscast jumped 11% in ratings from last November. The 10 p.m. news was even with last November.

The station’s general manager, Don Corsini, said he and news director Nancy Bauer Gonzales, who recently left KNBC, were putting more emphasis on content and a faster-paced newscast.

Corsini said he was also pleased with the performance of his newly launched 4 p.m. newscast. He expects the broadcast to generate a larger audience when KNBC replaces its 4 p.m. newscast next fall with a talk show hosted by “Dr. Phil” McGraw from “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

The network morning news race took a surprising turn this November as ABC’s “Good Morning America” overtook the traditional front-runner, NBC’s “The Today Show,” increasing an impressive 20% in ratings from last November. “The Today Show,” which came in second place, decreased 2% in ratings from last year.

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“With the events of Sept. 11, viewers really started to gravitate more toward Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson,” said Bill Burton, director of programming, advertising and promotion for ABC-owned KABC.

CBS’ “The Early Show” with Bryant Gumbel remained flat in ratings and audience share from last November, but came in fifth in the morning race.

The seesaw battle between the KTLA “Morning News” and KTTV’s “Good Day LA” ended in a victory this time around for KTLA, which came in third place behind “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.” “Good Day LA” finished in fourth place locally.

Both local morning shows are in a transitional period, which will likely be reflected in future sweeps periods. Morning anchor Giselle Fernandez joined KTLA in October, replacing Barbara Beck, who left the station last May. And a slicker version of “Good Day LA” will go into national syndication on Monday following the regular newscast.

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The war drew viewers to local newscasts on Spanish-language TV, but the conflict made prime-time fantasy shows less attractive. “We started a 5 a.m. newscast after Sept. 11,” said the research director for Telemundo’s KVEA-TV, Ken Hansely. “When you get new people on the air, it’s nice to maintain and lift a little bit from it.”

The audience for KVEA-TV’s 6 a.m. newscast increased from 0.1 to 0.4.

Viewership for both KVEA and its competition, KMEX-TV, increased by 0.2 for the local 6 p.m. news. KVEA jumped from 1.8 last November to 2.0 this November, and KMEX, which is the local affiliate of the huge Univision network, had a jump during the same time period from 3.6 to 3.8.

But telenovelas, the traditionally popular serial soap operas, failed to pull in the huge audiences that are typical to Spanish-language television. KVEA’s prime-time ratings sagged by 0.7, from 2.2 to 1.5, and KMEX’s ratings slumped by 2.0, from 9.3 to 7.3.

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And like most of the English-language stations, both KVEA and KMEX lost viewers during the 11 p.m. newscasts, compared with this period last year.


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