Barr’s legacy: Ch. 7’s continuing #1 in news ratings

Two weeks after Emily Barr abruptly resigned as general manager of ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, the station’s late news is set to retain its longtime No. 1 position among local newscasts in the all-important May sweeps Nielsen TV ratings book.

Barr, well-respected within the TV business in Chicago and nationally, left Channel 7 to become CEO of the (Washington) Post-Newsweek chain of television stations after she was passed over a while ago to head up ABC’s chain of owned-and-operated TV outlets.  Barr begins the new job in July, and she plans to operate out of an office in Chicago.

With one day to go in the all-important May sweeps book, Channel 7 was comfortably out in front of the pack in the late news ratings race Monday through Friday.

Channel 7’s late newscast pulled a 9 rating for May, putting the news program more than three ratings points ahead of second-place CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, which had a 5.8 rating for the month. The Channel 2 late news rating bested its result a year ago by nearly a full rating point, though the station still has a ways to go to pose much of a serious threat to Channel 7 at 10 p.m.

Ch. 2 ahead of Ch. 5 now till Olympics coverage

The Channel 2 result was good enough, however, to eke out a very slim victory over NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, which notched a 5.6 rating.   Channels 2 and 5 have been hotly battling for second place honors in the ratings in recent months.  Channel 5’s late news also has had to contend with weak lead-in ratings from NBC prime time programming, which has made it tougher for the station’s newscast to compete.

But Channel 2 could find itself falling well behind Channel 5 when NBC begins extensive coverage in July of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Traditionally, NBC’s Olympics telecast has provided a huge boost for Channel 5’s late newscast ratings.  But holding on to that lead created by the Olympics hasn’t always proved easy for Channel 5, because of NBC’s weak regular prime time programming in recent years. We shall see what happens this time.

Ch. 32 continues to lag in 9 p.m. news slot

Meanwhile, in the race for news ratings dominance at 9 p.m., Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9’s late news continues to hold a solid lead over perennially last-place Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

All of the tinkering and talent changes in Channel 32’s news department  the past several years have yet to yield much improvement in the station’s lowly ratings for its 9 p.m. hour-long newscast fronted by Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson.  A slump in ratings for “American Idol” this year hasn’t helped WFLD’s cause either.

As of Wednesday, WFLD scored a 2.3 rating for its 9 p.m. newscast, down more than half a rating point from May of last year.  WGN’s 9 p.m. newscast, which has been without the services of co-anchor Mark Suppelsa the past three weeks, still managed to pull a 4 rating, down from a 4.4 a year ago.  Suppelsa entered rehab in Minnesota to deal with an alcohol problem.

“Windy City Live” continues to lead completion

On the morning talk show front, Channel 7’s live morning show “Windy City Live” has much to be happy about as the program celebrates its first anniversary this week. 

The May numbers show that the talk fest, with a 3.6 rating, is well out in front of its competition at 9 a.m.  The nearest competitor is “Live with Kelly,” on Channel 9, which could do no better than a 2 rating.

The ratings for “Windy City Live” could remain strong, or even improve, as the show’s on-air talent grow more familiar with each other and the producers grow ever more confident of how to program and pace the show.

We shall see.

Contact Lewis Lazare at