- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

WJLA-TV plastered Gordon Peterson’s face on the side of Metrobuses next to the slogan “Move with Gordon” when the veteran news anchor joined the ABC affiliate in December.

Viewers, it seems, followed the advice.

WJLA Channel 7, for years an also-ran in the local news sweepstakes, moved ahead of Mr. Peterson’s old employer — CBS affiliate WUSA-TV Channel 9 — during the 28-day February sweep that concluded last night.

NBC station WRC-TV Channel 4 remains the most popular source for local TV news in the Washington area, but WJLA shifted into second place during most key time periods, scoring double-digit increases from one year ago.

Weeknights at 6, for example, WRC’s anchor team of Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler drew about 200,000 households, up 16 percent from the February 2004 ratings sweep, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. data.

WJLA’s 6 p.m. newscast, which Mr. Peterson and Maureen Bunyan anchor, drew about 152,000 households, up 39 percent from one year ago, when Miss Bunyan anchored with Leon Harris.

WUSA’s new anchor team, Todd McDermott and Tracey Neale, drew 85,000 households, down about 22 percent from February 2004, when Mr. Peterson and Gurvir Dhindsa presided over the 6 p.m. newscast.

Reruns of “The Simpsons” on Fox station WTTG-TV Channel 5 beat WUSA at 6 p.m. with 120,000 households.

Sweeps are quarterly, one-month periods when stations try to boost ratings so they can charge advertisers more for airtime. February marked the first major viewership test for the stations since Ms. Neale bolted to WUSA in September after nine years at WTTG.

That move triggered a rare round of musical anchor chairs in the usually staid Washington market. The changes at WUSA, which overhauled most of its main news team, are without precedent in recent years.

Mr. Peterson, Channel 9’s face for 35 years, left in November when management tried to cut his pay and airtime.

His move to WJLA reunited him with several teammates from Channel 9’s heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, including Miss Bunyan and Doug Hill, now WJLA’s chief weatherman.

Weeknights at 11, Mr. Vance and Ms. Gentzler led with 190,000 households on WRC.

Mr. McDermott and Ms. Neale finished second with about 149,000 households on WUSA, down roughly 9 percent from last February, when Mr. Peterson and Ms. Dhindsa anchored its 11 p.m. newscast.

WJLA’s Miss Bunyan and Mr. Harris finished third with about 129,000 households, a 40 percent increase.

Brian Bolter and Shawn Yancy drew 176,000 households at 10 p.m. on WTTG.

WUSA also suffered weekday evenings at 5, when J.C. Hayward and Mr. McDermott drew about 58,000 households, down 18 percent. Channel 9 finished fifth behind newscasts on the other stations and “Judge Mathis” on the WB station, WBDC-TV Channel 50.

Darryll J. Green, WUSA’s general manager, said he was unhappy with the station’s performance at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., but predicted things would improve as viewers got used to its new anchor lineups.

The station has no plans to make further on-air changes, Mr. Green said.

“Haven’t we had enough?” he said.


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