By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WXIX-TV has started celebrating its news department's 10th birthday a little early - by scoring record ratings for its 10 p.m. and morning newscasts.
With American Idol, Joe Millionaire and other strong Fox shows that won February sweeps nationally, Channel 19's 10 p.m. news averaged a record 10.4 rating on weekdays last month, and a record 10.9 rating on a seven-day average. (One ratings point here equals 8,542 TV homes).
"I'm really happy ... that so many viewers are continuing to take notice of our efforts. We have made a great deal of progress over the past few years," says Pat Casey, Channel 19 news director.
Channel 19 drew more late news viewers than WCPO-TV (Channel 9) or WLWT-TV (Channel 5). Not bad for a station that didn't enter the local news wars until Oct. 18, 1993. WKRC-TV (Channel 12) again was first for all local newscasts, as it has been for almost four years.
Channel 19, however, has some significant advantages - and disadvantages - at 10 p.m.
About 10 percent more viewers are watching TV at 10 p.m., giving Channel 19 a larger pool of people from which to draw an audience. But the competition for viewers is more intense against the networks' most popular shows - the Michael Jackson specials, ER, Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, Judging Amy, NYPD Blue, Without A Trace and 20/20.
On the other hand, Channel 19 had no competition when Tristate residents wanted snow predictions, school closings or local news at 10 p.m.
"I give them credit. But until there is local news competition (at 10 p.m.), they're going to continue to get those huge ratings," says Bill Fee, Channel 9 general manager who has tried to launch at 10 p.m. newscast on WB's WSTR-TV (Channel 64) in recent years.
11 p.m. news: Channel 12, which had promoted CBS' strong 10 p.m. shows along with its late news, won February sweeps with a 14.7 rating on weekdays, and a 14.1 rating on a seven-day average. (The Monday-Friday late news ratings is the measure for winning the month, because that's when most primary anchor teams work.)
Channel 12 enjoyed a 38 percent ratings advantage over Channel 9 (9.1) and a 45 percent ratings margin over Channel 5 (8.0) on the five-day average. Channel 12's lead was slightly lower on the seven-day average (14.1) over Channel 9 (9.7) and Channel 5 (7.8).
Channel 12 didn't pause long to celebrate another across-the-board victory, says Chris Sehring, general manager. "The other guys are coming on strong," he says.
In fact, Carol Williams' return to Channel 9's late news anchor desk last fall, replacing Stacy Case, pushed Channel 9 past Channel 5 into second place at 11 p.m.
"It's only been four months," says Fee, about reuniting Williams with Clyde Gray, the city's No. 1 late-news anchor team in the 1990s. "We've got a long way to go to catch 'KRC, but our goal was to solidify our hold on second place."
Channel 5's fall into third place at 11 p.m., and flat ratings 5-6:30 p.m., were factors in the Friday firing of Scott Hollowell, Channel 5 news director.
"It was part of the mix, but not all of it," says Richard Dyer, who took over as Channel 5 general manager in December. Hollowell had been at Channel 5 for 13 months.
Morning news: Channel 19's morning news also set a station record. The 7-9 a.m. portion of the four-hour local news drew a 4.4 rating for third place, beating NBC's Today show here.
Channel 12's combination of Good Morning Cincinnati and CBS' The Early Show won the time period with a 5.6 rating, followed by Channel 9's Good Morning America (4.9).
At 6-7 a.m., Channel 9 received some great news, too, by beating Channel 19 for third place. Ratings for the Kathrine Nero-David Rose team improved by 45 percent over November, pushing Channel 9 into third behind Channels 12 and 5. Rose replaced Michael Flannery as morning co-host in November after two weeks.
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