- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

WRC-TV (Channel 4) will claim another sweeps victory when the 28-day November ratings book closes today, although the NBC affiliate's numbers dipped slightly in some key races.
Meanwhile in a development that has some folks at Broadcast House saying, "Ay Carumba" the 6 p.m. news on CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) is in danger of finishing behind reruns of "The Simpsons" on Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5).
Sweeps are quarterly periods when television broadcasters try to raise ratings so they can charge advertisers more for airtime.
From Oct. 31 through Nov. 25, WRC had the most-watched local news weekdays from 5 to 7 a.m. and at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. Viewership is down 3 percent in the early mornings and 4 percent at 6 p.m., but it is flat at 5 p.m. and up 9 percent at 11 p.m.
WRC managers are pleased with the results, especially since the November book opened just one week after police arrested two suspects in the sniper case, bringing to an end a 22-day shooting rampage that consumed local newsrooms.
"There was no time to prepare for November. I'm pleased we were able to give the promotions department anything to talk about," said Robert L. Long, vice president of news and operations.
Not surprisingly, every station in the Washington area saw its numbers drop from October levels, when viewers hungry for sniper coverage gave ratings a big boost.
WUSA continued its yearlong assault on WRC's early-morning news in November. The CBS affiliate drew almost 60,000 households between 5 and 7 a.m., compared with about 67,000 households for WRC and 51,100 for WJLA (Channel 7). WTTG's local news from 5:30 to 7 a.m. drew about 43,300 households.
Weekdays at 5 p.m., when all four affiliates carry local news, WRC led with about 136,600 households, followed by WJLA with 106,700 households, WUSA with 83,700 households and WTTG with 73,500 households.
WTTG's 5 p.m. numbers are down 45 percent from last November, when "Judge Judy" aired in that time slot. "Judy" recently moved to afternoons at 4, where it has boosted WTTG's ratings 217 percent and is now in second place behind WJLA's resurgent "Oprah Winfrey Show."
As of yesterday, WUSA is in fourth place weeknights from 6 to 6:30 with about 108,400 households. Local news on WRC led with 174,100 households, followed by WJLA's news with 118,600 households and WTTG's "The Simpsons" with 118,400.
Last November, WUSA was a solid No. 2 behind WRC at 6 p.m.
The notion that Bart Simpson may beat venerable WUSA anchor Gordon Peterson has some frustrated Broadcast House staffers reaching for a Duff beer. They want the station to dump the low-rated "Montel" weekdays at 4 p.m. and restore news to that slot, figuring it would provide a better lead in to Mr. Peterson and company.
But the buzz around the WUSA water cooler is that management is more likely to pull the low-rated "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" at 7 p.m. and replace it with local news.
Ardyth Diercks, WUSA's president and general manager, did not return phone calls yesterday.
Now it can be told
WJLA news director Steven D. Hammel announced two weeks ago that he is leaving at the end of November, but he wouldn't say where he was headed.
Now we know.
Mr. Hammel's new gig is station manager of the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, where he will oversee news and promotions. He begins Dec. 16.
Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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