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Channel 4, Channel 2 Fight for News Leadership

The ratings news wasn't as good on Thursday for Channel 4 as it was on its first day back on Time Warner Cable systems on Wednesday.

After returning to first place Wednesday at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m,, Channel 4's newscasts were second to Channel 2's at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, the first night of the November sweeps. However, Channel 4 did win the 11 p.m. news battle.

Meanwhile, Channel 7, which had become second in news when Channel 4 was off cable, has fallen back to third in the three time periods.

Of course, news ratings can fluctuate like presidential polls. It should be awhile before the impact of Channel 4 being off cable for 26 days  -- in a financial dispute between its owner and Time Warner -- can be accurately assessed.

-- Alan Pergament

Ch. 4 Returns to Cable, But Will News Viewers?

The owner of Channel 4 and Channel 23 and Time Warner Cable finally made a national deal today that immediately put the stations back on local cable.

That means most Buffalo Bills games and such popular CBS programs as "Criminal Minds" and "CSI" are back on cable.

Now the question is whether news viewers will return to News 4 Buffalo, which had been the No. 1 news station in town for years until this dispute knocked the station off of 50 percent of the market.

In the almost four weeks since Channel 4 was off cable, it has fallen deep into third place behind Channel 2 and Channel 7. The former Channel 4 viewers who have sampled its competitors now have to decide whether they will come back to the station.

If you were a Channel 4 News viewer, will you return?   

-- Alan Pergament

Channel 7 Fails to Name Eyewitnesses

How long did it take one of Channel 7's main anchors to say "7 News" on the first day of the return of the Eyewitness News theme and format?

Would you believe 10 seconds?

To her credit, Joanna Pasceri caught herself using the 7 News slogan at 5 p.m. and quickly changed it to Eyewitness News. You can't blame her for the misstep since saying 7 News is probably a reflex after five years.

However, you can blame Channel 7 for failing to identify the people talking about the importance of the Eyewitness News theme in a nostalgic piece that ran during the evening newscasts.

Were viewers supposed to guess who they were?

Bringing back the theme is a good idea. But the station also will need to improve its presentation if it wants to get more viewers back.

-- Alan Pergament

Eyewitness News Returns to Channel 7

It’s back to the future for Channel 7’s news department. As expected,  the station returned this morning to the Eyewitness News theme and format that it abandoned five years ago. Speculation that it was going to happen grew late last week when anchors Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri said on newscasts that a "big change" was coming that "everyone would be talking about."

The dropping of Eyewitness News in favor of 7 News had been considered in media circles to be one of the mistakes that led the once-dominant news department to fall into third place behind first-place Channel 4 News (which has slipped to third in the three weeks that it has been off Time Warner Cable) and second-place Channel 2 News.

The theme and format returned today on the station’s early morning program, which has been renamed “Eyewitness News This Morning." It returned without any fanfare, though it wouldn’t be surprising if more was made of it on the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news, which are co-anchored by Radford and  Pasceri.

What do you think of Channel 7's decision to go back to the Eyewitness News theme and format?

-- Alan Pergament

Channel 7's Big Tease

Call it Channel 7's Big Tease. On the station's 11 p.m. newscast Wednesday, co-anchors Joanna Pasceri and Keith Radford announced a "big change" is coming Monday.

"The thing is it is a surprise," said Pasceri, "so top secret they won't even tell us all about it. "

She added that she didn't know what it was and asked Radford if he did.

"We don't even know folks," said Radford. "Things are going to be very different around here. Hopefully, we'll still be here."

That line was made jokingly. Radford concluded the exchange by saying "everyone is going to be talking about" the big change after it is revealed on Monday.

Normally, newcasts tease stories that are coming up in five minutes or less, not five days.

Perhaps coincidentally, the Big Tease aired the same day my column reported about the speculation heard by staffers that Channel 7 is considering returning to the Eyewitness News format.

Before I ran that item, I called Channel 7's news director, Glen Horn, for a response. He said he would pass the request along to Channel 7 Bill Ransom. Ransom, who hasn't returned calls for weeks, didn't call.

Like Pasceri and Radford, I don't know what the Big Tease is about. If it isn't about the return of the Eyewitness News theme and format, it is hard to imagine anything else that would get Western New Yorkers talking as much. But, hey, as the lottery ad says, you never know.

-- Alan Pergament   

ESPN's Berman Doing Interview with Edwards

Buffalo booster Chris Berman is baaack, baaack, baaack praising the Bills. According to ESPN, Berman traveled to Western New York this week to do a one-on-one interview with Bills quarterback Trent Edwards.

Berman, who in the 1990s made famous the line that "nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills," didn't have time to stay around these parts for too long. He is in Tampa for the first two games of the World Series, where he will anchor nightly editions of SportsCenter.

His piece on Edwards and the 5-1 Bills will air during Sunday NFL Countdown, the two-hour program that starts at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Of course, local fans probably wonder what took ESPN so long to rediscover the 5-1 Bills in a big way.

-- Alan Pergament

Bills-Chargers Re-Energized on NFL Network

If you're a satellite subscriber or have Verizon's FiOs service and get The NFL Network, you'll get an unique look tonight at the strange happenings in the Buffalo Bills' 23-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

At 9:30 tonight, "NFL" Replay on the network will include special NFL Films and local broadcast footage of the game, which was bounced off of CBS for much of the first half because of a power outage.

According to a NFL Network release, the program will include shots of power crews trying to get the problem solved. Mike Periera, the NFL's vice president of officiating, will also explain the protocol that officating crews follows in the situation.

Of course, The NFL Network isn't carried on Time Warner Cable. But then again either is Channel 4, the CBS affiliate that carried the game.

Naturally, the power loss didn't help the game's local ratings, which already were down because Channel 4 isn't on cable. The game averaged a 19.6 rating, which is about half of what it would have been if Channel 4 was on cable. The ratings peaked at 24.6 in the last 15 minutes, meaning 24.6 percent of the area's households were tuned in at the finish.

-- Alan Pergament

To Jay or Not to Jay, that is NBC's Big Question


I talked to film writer/director Kevin Smith yesterday. Obviously, what we were talking about was his funny and controversial forthcoming film "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." But I couldn't resist asking Smith about the plight of his buddy and longtime latenight patron Jay Leno who is now, courtesy of an NBC executive plan, the lame duck host of "The Tonight Show" to be replaced by Conan O'Brien in the fall of 2009. Smith is, in fact, scheduled to be Leno's "Tonight Show" guest this evening.

LenoWhat does Smith think of it all, I asked. Not much, to boil his answer down considerably. Nor do an awful lot of people. Among those expressing dismay, bafflement and worse at NBC's planned Conan-for-Jay swap at 11:30 p.m. was, of all people, Leno's longtime competition, David Letterman in an edition of Rolling Stone.

Would Kevin Smith, in the future, appear on a Conan O'Brien "Tonight Show?" Only after he talked to Leno, he said, and Leno gave his blessing.

Very interesting, that -- especially if a lot of Leno loyalists feel that way and Leno, as expected, moves over to ABC. And says, to all his friends, "no", come on my show instead.

So what do you think of NBC's upcoming Conan-for-Jay swap in 2009?

Lunacy or demographic cunning? Lack of network principle or just smart business?

Your thoughts?

--Jeff Simon

Things Can't Get Much Worse

How big a TV draw is feature film actor Christian Slater in Western New York?

Not much of one if you consider the ratings for his overly-complicated new NBC series, "My Own Worst Enemy."

In movie parlance, "Worst" didn't open well. It's a confusing mess of a program that isn't even easy to explain or care about.

Slater plays two characters -- a family man and spy -- though he initially didn't realize he had two identities in the same body. The premise is so confusing that viewers almost had to watch the opener to get involved -- and they didn't bother here.

The show bombed locally with a 3.9 rating on WGRZ-TV, the NBC affiliate. It got less than half of the audience of first place "CSI:"Miami," the CBS series which averaged an 8.9 rating here even though half of WNY can't get Channel 4. ABC's "Boston Legal" almost doubled the "Worst" rating with a 7.4 rating on Channel 7.

If national ratings are just as bad, Slater's show could be on the road to quick cancellation. However, NBC has so many prime time problems that it may have to keep "Worst" on.

"Heroes," which once was a hit and has become increasingly violent, only had a 5.4 rating here Monday as the lead-in for Slater's show. However, it usually scores well nationally in key demographic categories.

What did you think of "Worst" if you were one of the few who watched it?

-- Alan Pergament


News Leader Now in Third Place

How badly has LIN TV's decision to take WIVB-TV off of Time Warner Cable in a dispute over retransmission fees?

Normally, the news leader, Channel 4 was deep in first place at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. after the first full week in which it only entered about 50 percent of area homes.

According to my unoffical calculations, Channel 2 was in first place at 6 p.m. during the week of Oct.6 through Oct. 10 with a 9.3 rating and first at 11 p.m. with an 11.0 rating. Channel 7, which recently has hit hard times, got strong sampling and finished second with a 7.9 average rating at 6 p.m. and a 7.2 rating at 11 p.m.

Channel 4 averaged an anemic 3.1 rating at 6 p.m. and a 4.6 rating at 11 p.m.

Unless a deal is made quickly, it may take months or even years for Channel 4 to recover.

-- Alan Pergament

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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

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