With one day to go in the Nielsen March TV ratings book, the results in the local late news ratings competition show ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 continues to hold on the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
But as was the case in February, the station’s 10 p.m. rating of 8.2 Monday through Friday is down more than a full rating point from where it was a year ago at 9.5. (Each local ratings point represents 35,000 households.)
Though it remains the dominant station in the late news race, WLS was the only station to show a drop of more than one full rating point in the March Nielsen book.
WLS had no clear-cut answer for why its 10 p.m. news rating has shrunk so noticeably year over year. But no one at Channel 7 appears to be panicking so long as its lead over its competitors remains a relatively comfortable one.
Ch. 5 in second place, slightly ahead of Ch. 2
The battle for second place continues to be a hotly-contested one between NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. In March, however, Channel 5 moved back into second place with a 5.7 rating, just slightly ahead of WBBM’s 5.4. But ahead nonetheless.
To get that result, Channel 5 had to overcome an extraordinarily weak prime time lead-in rating of just 3.9, compared to lead-in ratings of 6.3 for Channel 2 and 5.5 for Channel 7.
Even with the strongest lead-in numbers of the three local stations with 10 p.m. newscasts, Channel 2 hasn’t been able to significantly narrow the ratings gap that exists between it and leader Channel 7.
That, of course, raises the question of whether Channel 2’s 10 p.m. lead anchors Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan ever will prove to have the drawing power needed to overcome the popularity of the WLS news franchise and its long-standing 10 p.m. news anchor team headed by Kathy Brock and Ron Magers.
Ch. 9 remains ahead of Ch. 32 in 9 p.m. news slot
Meanwhile, at 9 p.m., where Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 duke it out head to head with hour-long newscasts, the WGN product remains the much stronger of the two.
WGN pulled a 4.4 rating in March, down notably from its 5.1 a year ago, but still well ahead of perennially last-place Channel 32, which could do no better than 2.4 rating (flat year over year).
With veteran news woman Phyllis Schwartz now at the helm of Channel 32’s news department, the station obviously is looking for signs of a turnaround. But so far, it isn’t happening.
It certainly didn’t help that WFLD’s prime time lead-in rating took a big hit this month, down to 4.1 from a 6.4 rating a year ago.
WGN’s lead-in, on the other hand, was up to a 2.2 rating from a 1.6 rating a year ago.
Ch. 7’s “Windy City Live” the morning leader
In the morning talk show ratings race at 9 a.m., WLS’s “Windy City Live” is demonstrating remarkable strength. The show, which is not yet a year old, pulled a 3.2 rating, just below the 3.6 that “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was getting in one of the final months of its 25-year life.
“WCL’s” producers have added more of a potpourri of segments and contributors on most days, and that may be helping the show helmed by Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini draw more viewers.
“WCL’s” closest competitor at 9 a.m. is the syndicated “Live with Kelly,” which scored a 2.4 on WGN-Channel 9 in March. And after struggling for a long time, there is a welcome sign of some growth for WFLD’s 9 a.m. hour of “Good Day, Chicago,” which more than doubled its rating year over year to a 1.6 in March from a 0.6 a year ago.
Even so, that improvement still left the show in last place in the 9 a.m. time slot. But it could be the beginning of better days for the show in that hour.
Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com