CBS Stations on Rise

Prime hits kick up news ratings

For the past 13 years, Kansas City, Mo., CBS affiliate KCTV suffered a
late-news drought. The Meredith Broadcasting-owned station could never catch
its rival, Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate KMBC. But in the November sweeps,
for the first time since 1991, KCTV unseated KMBC as 10 p.m. king, pulling in
an average 13.1 rating/19 share, up 20% from 2003.

The victory is the culmination of a three-year overhaul with new anchors
and a fresh hard-news and investigative bent. “CBS has been rolling, but we
weren't able to convert that into a win,” says KCTV VP and GM Kirk Black.
“Now we've developed a brand, and people are watching. We are
out-delivering the typical CBS affiliate.”

Across the country, CBS stations are attempting a similar assault. The
objective: capitalize on CBS' red-hot prime time and turn monster lead-ins
from CSI: Miami and Without a Trace into bigger news audiences.

In Philadelphia, CBS O&O KYW climbed to second place in late news
last month. In Boston, for the first time in 11 years, CBS O&O WJZ was No.
1 at 11 p.m. in 25-54s and is retaining 20% more of its lead-in. “Our goal is
to grow the lead-in. Whatever it is, we'll add to it,” says Fred Reynolds,
president and CEO of Viacom's station group.

At the network level, CBS won November sweeps in total viewers and the
key 18-49 and 25-54 demos. And more viewers are sticking around for news. In 39
of 54 metered markets, CBS stations improved late-news ratings over a year ago.
“Our late-news ratings are better than prime, and that is the real test,”
says Chris Sehring, GM for Clear Channel's WKRC Cincinnati. In Nashville,
affiliate WTVF is surging in prime and late news. “This is a
CSI town and a CBS town,” says station
President Debbie Turner. “Our 10 p.m. news is extremely strong, and we are
psyched to be getting younger demos.”

In New York, WCBS still lags rivals WABC and WNBC but is in the race
now. It trails 11 p.m. leader WNBC by less than a rating point in adults 25-54.
“A lot of it is CBS' strength in prime and our ability to retain more of
that audience,” says Lew Leone, WCBS' president and GM.

In Kansas City, KCTV's GM would still like to see CBS beef up its
weekends. “On Friday and Saturday nights, we're at a disadvantage going
into 10 p.m.,” Black says. Still, KCTV won late news two Fridays and two
Saturdays in sweeps. “We went way up from our lead-in,” he notes. “We
didn't do that before.”