WBAL wins the gold in TV games Television: The Olympics helped Channel 11 claim the area's top viewership for all three evening news slots during a normally low-key ratings period.

You can hear the crowing all the way to the state line: The folks at WBAL, Channel 11, are claiming they beat their rivals at WJZ, Channel 13, in all three evening news broadcasts during the latest Nielsen ratings period.

No matter that the July numbers are traditionally the least trumpeted of the four yearly sweeps. And never mind that WBAL's numbers were no doubt enormously inflated by NBC's Olympics coverage.


A win is a win, and Channel 11 management is convinced this is the start of something.

"To win all three [time slots] is an announcement of the changing of the guard in news leadership that we've all talked about," says WBAL vice president and general manager Phil Stoltz.


As always with the Nielsens, the numbers can be interpreted any number of ways. But this go-round, WBAL can lay a reasonable claim to being on top in all three late afternoon/evening time slots for the period from July 11 to Aug. 7.

WBAL news won at 5 p.m. with a 7.8 rating, 19 share, compared to a 7.3 rating, 18 share for WJZ and a 6.3 rating, 15 share for WMAR, Channel 2.

At 6 p.m., things get complicated. WBAL bases its win on measuring the 6 p.m.-6: 30 p.m. time slot Monday through Saturday, when all three stations air local news (WJZ airs national news during this time period on Sunday).

Using that measure, the folks at WBAL claim the victory with an 8.92 rating, 19 share, compared to an 8.90 rating, 19 share for WJZ. WJZ, however, can claim victory by noting that its hourlong Monday-through-Friday newscast, with a 9.6 rating, 19 share, outdraws the half-hour products on both WBAL (8.7 rating, 18 share) and WMAR (6.5 rating, 13 share).

The numbers at 11 p.m. are harder to gauge, because WBAL's late newscasts were often pushed back by the Olympics, often not starting until past midnight. On those occasions when all three newscasts aired at 11 p.m., WBAL numbers-crunchers claim a 10 rating, 20 share, compared to WJZ's 8.7 rating, 18 share, and WMAR's 6.8 rating, 14 share.

Each ratings point is equal to about 9,500 households. Share measures the percentage of households with televisions in use at a given time that are tuned to a particular station.

WJZ management attributes WBAL's success to the Olympics, a one-dose shot in the arm.

"The key here is the Olympics, which dramatically changed the nature of a typical July book," says WJZ general manager Marcellus Alexander. WJZ held its own against the Olympic juggernaut better than most stations, he says.


While admitting his station was helped considerably by the games, Stoltz emphasizes that neither the 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. newscasts had a direct Olympic lead-in.

"Certainly the Olympics were a tremendous promotional tool for us," he says, "but then so is NBC prime time."

'Startalk' gets new time

Good news for fans of "Startalk" with Walter Bright.

No longer will you have to wake up at dawn to hear this weekly look at the Baltimore of yesteryear and the entertainers who helped make it memorable. The program now airs from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays on WITH-AM (1230).

Mars movie fest


All atwitter over the prospect of life on Mars? Convinced it's just a matter of time before little green men pop up and say, "We're here"? So is the Sci-Fi channel, and today it's putting on a movie marathon to celebrate the prospect of extraterrestrial life.

Beginning at 2: 30 p.m., the channel will show "The Day Mars Invaded Earth," a 1963 pic that I'm assured is a classic; "The Night That Panicked America," about that frightening October night in 1938 when Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast had much of the country convinced aliens had landed in New Jersey; James Earl Jones in 1975's "The UFO Incident," the story of some folks abducted by aliens; and director John Carpenter's 1982 remake of "The Thing," with Kurt Russell encountering a shape-shifting alien with a bad attitude in Antarctica.

Pub Date: 8/18/96