- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Ah, the halcyon days of February 2003: The Presidents Day blizzard, the Code Orange terror alert, the search for weapons of mass destruction.

Sigh. Good times.

Sadly, Washingtonians have fewer reasons to huddle around their TV sets these days.

This isn’t good for the fragile egos that work in local TV news, especially since February is a “sweeps” month, when stations try to jack up ratings so they can raise advertising rates.

Viewership for many local newscasts dropped during the first 26 days of the 28-day sweep that concludes today, according to Nielsen Media Research:

• Only NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) and CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) saw viewership climb during the important late-news race. WRC led weeknights at 11 with 204,000 households (up 3 percent from February 2003), followed by WUSA with 163,000 households (up slightly) and ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) with 98,000 households (down 20 percent). Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5), which airs its late news at 10 p.m., drew 176,000 households (down 19 percent).

• Weeknights at 7, WUSA’s new half-hour newscast drew 80,000 households, down 6 percent from February 2003, when “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” aired in that time slot. WRC’s “NBC Nightly News” drew 184,000 households (down 12 percent), WJLA’s “Wheel of Fortune” drew 158,000 households (down slightly) and WTTG’s “Friends” reruns drew 134,000 households (down 20 percent).

• Weeknights from 6 to 6:30, WRC’s news led with 168,000 households (up 2 percent), followed by WTTG’s “Simpsons” reruns with 120,000 households (down 13 percent), WJLA’s news at 110,000 households (down 6 percent) and WUSA’s news with 109,000 households (down 7 percent).

• Weekday afternoons at 5, WRC led with 131,000 households (up 2 percent), followed by WJLA with 97,000 households (unchanged), WTTG with 89,000 households (up 7 percent) and WUSA with 71,000 households (down 16 percent).

• WUSA’s “Inside Edition” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” combination fared worse weekdays at 4 p.m. than “The Montel Williams Show,” which aired in that slot last year.

The two syndicated shows drew 44,000 households, down 25 percent. WTTG’s “Judge Judy” led at 4 p.m. with 141,000 households (up 27 percent), followed by WJLA’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show” with 108,000 households (up 11 percent) and WRC’s news with 107,000 households (up 7 percent).

• Weekday mornings from 7 to 9, “Today” on WRC drew 105,000 households (down slightly), followed by WTTG’s locally produced news with 85,000 households (up 9 percent), “Good Morning America” on WJLA with 62,000 households (down 10 percent) and “The Early Show” on WUSA with 53,000 households (up 15 percent).

• Weekday mornings from 5 to 7, an average 112,000 households tuned into WRC’s news (up 43 percent), followed by WUSA’s news with 58,000 households (up 7 percent) and WJLA’s news 49,000 households (up 23 percent). WTTG’s news, which airs from 5:30 to 7 a.m., drew 54,000 households (up 26 percent).

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

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