The November ratings book is in, and to the surprise of no one, things remain pretty much as they have been in the local news biz.
WBAL, Channel 11, thanks in no small part to NBC's dominant prime-time lineup, continues to dominate the 11 p.m. news. WBAL and WJZ, Channel 13, continue slugging it out at 5 p.m., where Channel 11 emerged victorious by one-half a ratings point. And WJZ continues to pound the competition at noon, garnering more than twice the viewers of its nearest competition.
That's pretty much the way Baltimore's airwaves have been divvied up for the past two years: WBAL and WJZ jockeying for supremacy, with WMAR, Channel 2, pulling up the rear a distant third at almost every turn.
"We don't want to rest on our laurels or take things for granted," says WBAL programming chief Emerson Coleman. Still, he admits happily, "This is the eighth ratings period in a row that we've won at 11. A lot of people, just a couple of years ago, would never have imagined that could happen."
In fact, the folks at WBAL come away from the November Nielsens with all sorts of good news. Their 6 a.m. newscast has grown three ratings points since last year, meaning 28,500 more viewers are tuning in. They beat their TV Hill rivals at WJZ at 5 p.m. for the second straight ratings period. And their 6 p.m. Saturday newscast is the highest-rated single news show in Baltimore.
Management at WJZ, the traditional 500-pound gorilla of Charm City newscasts, takes solace in noting that, added together, more people watch their newscasts daily, citing an overall ratings average of 7.9, with a 21 share, compared with WBAL's 6.9/19 and WMAR's 4.4/12. (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.)
News director Gail Bending, while tipping her hat to WBAL, maintains that CBS-affiliate WJZ is more than holding its own. Channel 11's prominence, she says, owes much of its success to NBC's juggernaut of a lineup. Take Thursday night out of the equation at WBAL, she notes, and the two stations are tied at 11 p.m.
"Had it not been for the way Thursday nights go that one night is what caused the gap at 11," Bending says. "Which is, I guess, how you give yourself solace when you don't have 'ER.' "
The one area of movement, the time period that looks as if it could serve as the stations' next major battleground, is the early-morning newscasts. Management at both WJZ and WBAL took pains to note their successes there.
"The show I'm most proud of is our [morning] show from 7 to 8, with Don [Scott] and Marty [Bass]," says Bending. "We used to lose that time period, with CBS's morning show, but now we win that period."
In September, CBS cut its morning program to one hour, beginning at 8 a.m., and WJZ responded by adding an extra hour of the popular Scott-Bass combination. From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., when all three Baltimore stations run local news, WJZ earned a 6.8 rating and a 28 share compared with 4.9/20 for WBAL and 3.3/14 for WMAR.
From 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., when the WJZ duo goes up against NBC's "Today" on WBAL and ABC's "Good Morning, America" on WMAR, the numbers are 6.9/23 for Channel 13, 6.2/20 for Channel 11 and 4.6/15 for Channel 2.
WBAL, however, can also put a positive spin on its early-morning numbers. Its 6 a.m. broadcast, Coleman notes, is the fastest growing news program in Baltimore.
"That show has grown an astounding three share points since last November," he says. "There was just what seemed like an insurmountable lead there [for WJZ], and it's really getting tighter."
Les and the congressmen
Politics may make odd bedfellows, but leave it to radio to bring them together.
Maryland Congressmen Ben Cardin and Robert Ehrlich, who can't hold all that many common beliefs, will share the microphone on tomorrow's Les Kinsolving show, scheduled for 7 p.m.-10 p.m. on WCBM-AM (680).
Cardin is a liberal to moderate Democrat who seems to love nothing more than maintaining a low profile. Ehrlich, a conservative swept into office by the Republican Revolution of 1994, seems to love few things more than keeping his name in the spotlight.
Should be interesting to hear what they have to say to one another -- and to Les, who's hardly the shy and retiring type himself.
Pub Date: 12/08/96