- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) will claim another ratings victory when the 28-day November sweep ends today, although CBS station WUSA-TV (Channel 9) has closed in on its archrival during the late-news race.

An average 178,000 households tuned into WRC’s 11 p.m. news during the first 26 days of the sweep, an 11.9 percent leap from November 2002 audience levels, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

So far, WUSA has averaged 143,000 households at 11 p.m., a 5 percent increase from last November. CBS’ improved prime-time fortunes likely benefited the station, as well as a series of well-produced special reports, such as its profile of jailed boxer Riddick Bowe.

Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5), which airs its late news at 10 p.m., has averaged 132,000 households so far, up slightly from last November. WTTG probably would have fared better if the second season of “Joe Millionaire” hadn’t turned out to be such a dud.

Despite the addition of former CNN star Leon Harris as its lead anchor, ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) has averaged just 97,000 households at 11 p.m., 14 percent fewer than last November. ABC’s weak prime time lineup dragged WJLA down, but the station didn’t help matters with silly reports on “K Street Hookers” and “Hip Hugger Hazards.”

Sweeps are monthly periods occurring quarterly when stations try to boost ratings so they can raise ad rates.

Managers at some rival stations griped that WRC artificially inflated its 11 p.m. average Sunday when it ran an abbreviated 15-minute newscast, filling the rest of the half-hour time slot with a rerun of its “Viewpoint” interview show.

The stunt likely boosted ratings because the last half of a newscast typically generates lower ratings than the first. Since WRC dumped the last half of its late news that evening, there was no “second quarter hour” to reduce its Nielsen average.

Other sweeps highlights:

• WRC’s 5 a.m.-7 a.m. weekday news block averaged 103,000 households, the first time an early newscast in the Washington area has cracked the 100,000-homes mark. WUSA ranks second in the time period, followed by WTTG and WJLA.

• WUSA’s new 7 p.m. newscast is performing better than the show it replaced, the syndicated version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.” So far, WUSA has averaged 78,000 households weeknights at 7, up 8 percent from the November 2002 ratings for “Millionaire.” WRC’s “NBC Nightly News” still leads in the time period, followed by WTTG’s “Friends” and WJLA’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

• More viewers are discovering WTTG’s weekday 5 p.m. newscast, the only one in its time slot whose numbers are up. The program has averaged 90,000 households, a 21.6 percent increase from last November. WRC leads the 5 p.m. news race, followed by WJLA, WTTG and WUSA.

• WTTG’s “Judge Judy” is beating WJLA’s “Oprah Winfrey Show” weekdays at 4 p.m. WRC’s news ranks third. Bringing up the rear: WUSA’s “Millionaire” and “Inside Edition” combination, which has managed to score lower in the time period than “The Montel Williams Show” one year ago.

• WRC’s news leads at 6 p.m., followed by WTTG’s “Simpsons” reruns, WUSA’s news and WJLA’s news.

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

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