Monday's downpours held a silver lining for KTLA-TV Channel 5, which saw ratings for the Rose Parade soar to the highest levels in seven years as housebound Angelenos watched in large numbers. But the rain didn't douse a simmering controversy over the role of longtime co-host Stephanie Edwards, who some viewers complained was literally sidelined during the soggy telecast.
An average of 1.9 million viewers in the Los Angeles area tuned in to KTLA during its live 8 a.m.-to-10:30 a.m. coverage of the 117th Tournament of Roses Parade, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. The station's household ratings leaped 25% compared with last year's telecast and were the parade's best since 1999.
The parade is a signature event for KTLA (which is owned by Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times), and it easily bested competing coverage on KNBC-TV Channel 4 (239,000 viewers) and KABC-TV Channel 7 (222,000), as well as Spanish-language stations KMEX-TV Channel 34 (521,000) and KWHY-TV Channel 22 (241,000). (KCBS-TV Channel 2 did not air parade coverage. All told, 3.2 million viewers in the Los Angeles market watched the parade, the highest overall tally since 1997.
The bad weather boosted the ratings, as viewers stayed home to watch TV rather than venturing outdoors. Bill Carroll, vice president of the Katz Television Group, which advises local stations, pointed out that viewing levels are almost invariably tied to climate patterns, with TV usage jumping during cold or inclement weather. Indeed, according to Nielsen, the percentage of Los Angeles area households using TV was 52% during the time KTLA broadcast the parade, compared with 41% during last year's event.
Asked to account for the high ratings, spokeswoman Carolyn Aguayo said KTLA has long been the "station of record" for the parade. But she added: "The rain may have also generated additional interest from viewers wanting to see how it would impact the event."
For longtime parade watchers, though, there was also a juicy back story to the KTLA broadcast.
Edwards has long co-hosted the parade coverage with Bob Eubanks, the former host of "The Newlywed Game." But this year, Edwards vanished from the booth, replaced by KTLA morning news co-anchor Michaela Pereira. Edwards covered the parade from a bench on the sidelines.
The parade had hardly wrapped before bloggers began expressing sympathy for Edwards and sharply criticizing Pereira, whom several viewers complained had referred to retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as sitting on the "Superior Court." Pereira did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.
On LAObserved.com, one correspondent wrote: "Worse than the rain on the parade was the treatment of Stephanie Edwards on the KTLA Rose Parade telecast. I was completely outraged that she was demoted to sitting in the stands having no part at all in the coverage. She didn't even have a place to put her papers and had to juggle the microphone and umbrella?! It was completely demoralizing."
KTLA General Manager Vinnie Malcolm downplayed the negative reactions. "Anytime you make a change like this you're always going to have comments. We're quite pleased with the telecast."
In an e-mail to a Times reporter, Edwards denied reports of bad blood between her and Eubanks. "Bob, Michaela and I are thrilled by the ratings but saddened by the misinformation regarding our nonexistent feud," she wrote. Attempts to reach Edwards for further comments were unsuccessful.
One station staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from management, said that Edwards and Eubanks had each been paid about $50,000 for full hosting duties. The staffer did not know what Pereira, who is already a station employee, was paid to co-host this year.
"Stephanie's changed role had nothing to do with money. We simply tried something new," Aguayo said. In fact, Malcom said, "it added to the expense; it was a seven-figure production."