- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Clash in he cornflakes: Fox 5’s “Morning News” is tantalizingly close to overtaking NBC’s “Today” as the Washington area’s most-watched breakfast program.

The WTTG-TV (Channel 5) newscast drew an average of 98,000 households weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. during the first 26 days of the 28-day May ratings sweep, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“Today,” which NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) airs, averaged roughly 99,000 households during the same period. “Good Morning America” on ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) drew 60,000 households, while “The Early Show” on CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) averaged 42,000.

In other cities, “Good Morning America” has siphoned viewers from “Today.” In the Washington area, NBC has suffered at the hands of WTTG’s local news, which increasingly mimics the “Today” style.

Last week, for example, WTTG sent reporter Holly Morris around the region for “Good Golly, Where’s Holly?” a series that aped the “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?” segments on “Today.”

Viewership for Fox 5’s “Morning News” is up about 29 percent from May 2003.

Ratings for WTTG’s early morning newscast, which airs weekdays from 5:30 to 7 a.m., are up about 10 percent. The station is expected to announce soon that it will add a half-hour to that program at 5 a.m., when WRC, WJLA and WUSA begin their early newscasts.

The May sweep — which concludes today — is one of four months when stations try to boost the Nielsens so they can raise advertising rates. Other highlights from the first 26 days of the sweep:

• WRC led the 11 p.m. news race with 179,000 households, followed by WUSA with 138,000 and WJLA with 84,000. WTTG’s 10 p.m. newscast drew 149,000 households.

• Weeknights at 6 p.m., WRC’s news led with 141,000 households, followed by WJLA’s news with 120,000, WTTG’s “Simpsons” reruns with 108,000 and WUSA’s news with 85,000.

• WUSA’s 5 p.m. newscast — which follows the viewer-repellant “Inside Edition” — averaged just 58,000 households. It finished behind competing newscasts on WRC, WTTG and WJLA and “Judge Mathis” on WB affiliate WBDC-TV (Channel 50).

• WUSA’s 7 p.m. newscast finished fifth in its time slot, behind WJLA’s “Wheel of Fortune,” WRC’s “NBC Nightly News,” WTTG’s “Friends” reruns and WBDC’s “Parkers” reruns.

• During the early news race from 5 to 7 a.m., WRC led with 89,000 households, followed by WJLA with 51,000 and WUSA with 44,000. WTTG’s 5:30-to-7 a.m. newscast drew 62,000 households. All of the stations experienced double-digit gains in the early mornings except WUSA, where viewership dropped roughly 15 percent.

Enter Asha?

Asha Blake, who was a co-host on NBC’s “Later Today” from 1999 until 2000, auditioned with Brian Bolter for WTTG’s open anchor job Monday. Jan Jeffcoat, a morning anchor at the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., auditioned at WTTG last week.

Sticking around

Tony Perkins isn’t returning to local TV anytime soon: ABC has signed the “Good Morning America” weatherman for at least one more year, ending WJLA’s courtship of the Washington native.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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