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Sweeping profit and loss

Times Staff Writer

Buffeted by some high-profile staff shakeups, KNBC-TV Channel 4 lost huge segments of its morning news audience, although its 11 p.m. news still came out on top in the sweeps period that just ended.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “American Idol” powerhouse helped to boost the fortunes of its local affiliate, KTTV-TV Channel 11, which won its second consecutive sweeps victory in the morning and evening news races, according to local Nielsen ratings released Thursday.

KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.” remained the top-rated morning show from 7 to 9 a.m., followed by “The KTLA Morning News,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today,” the time period’s former leader.

“Today” failed to benefit from highly publicized stunts such as “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno switching places with “Today” host Katie Couric and a cab driver switching jobs with “Today” host Matt Lauer.

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It was the second straight sweeps period in which the chatty, personality-driven “Good Day L.A.” beat both national and local newscasts.

“This proves that what happened last time with ‘Good Day L.A.’ was not a fluke,” said KTTV general manager Dave Boylan.

He said he also was pleased with the showing of “Good Day Live,” the syndicated version of “Good Day L.A.,” which was moved March to 9 a.m. from 10 a.m. to face off against “Live With Regis and Kelly” on ABC and the final hour of NBC’s “Today.” “Good Day Live” came in second in the time period behind “Live With Regis and Kelly.”

KTTV was also helped out in the 10 p.m. news race by the continuing strength of “American Idol” and the coattail effect it provided to other Fox series such as “24" and “The Bernie Mac Show” that precede the news. The station’s “Fox 11 News at 10" scored decisively over KTLA-TV Channel 5’s “News at 10.”

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Some executives at KTLA (owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns the Los Angeles Times) repeated their complaints that their news hour should not be measured directly against KTTV’s, which they charge often includes specials and other programming. But Boylan said, “Even without those specials, we would still beat KTLA. The numbers speak for themselves.”

The May sweeps results were particularly weak for KNBC in the early morning news period.

KNBC’s “Today in L.A.” lost more than half its viewership, compared to last year, in the early morning news competition at 5 and 5:30 a.m., and more than 40% of its audience from last year at 6 a.m.

Rival news executives pointed to a shake-up in the station’s on-air news team, including the firing of veteran weatherman Christopher Nance in December, as probable reasons for the drop. In April, “Today in L.A.” anchor David Cruz was replaced by Chris Schauble, who joined anchor Kelly Mack. Rachel Boesing, formerly of Las Vegas’ KVBC-TV Channel 3, replaced Nance as the show’s weather forecaster.

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KABC-TV Channel 7 and KTTV were locked in a virtual tie for first place in their 5 and 6 a.m. newscasts.

Paula Madison, KNBC’s president and general manager, acknowledged “challenges” for the station. “We had some significant changes in our early morning team, and viewers were obviously sampling other newscasts. The competition has gotten a lot tougher, and we have a fight. But we have assembled a good, solid news team, and we will see results from that.”

The station fared better in its 4 p.m. hour, in which it replaced its newscast with the syndicated “Dr. Phil,” raising its period rating by more than 60%. But KABC remained the winner in the afternoon.

KNBC also continued its long-standing domination of the 11 p.m. news race, followed by KABC and KCBS-TV Channel 2. The CBS affiliate was the only newscast of the three to show improvement over last year.

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