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Ch.4 still big favorite in 10 p.m. news battle

By Alan Pergament

This is what I’m thinking about the move of Channel 2’s 10 p.m. news from WNYO to WUTV on April 8:

On the night that Channel 2 announced its 10 p.m. news would move to the local Fox affiliate, Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on WNYO had a higher rating that Fox’s “American Idol” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The score Wednesday night: Channel 4’s “10 O’Clock News: 6.6.  WUTV’s “Idol”: 6.3. Channel 2’s 10 p.m. news on WNYO: 2.0.

Channel 4 drew such a large audience despite getting less than a 1 rating from its CW lead-in “Supernatural.” Channel 2 got an even lower lead-in from a repeat of “Numbers” on WNYO.

The point is it that although Channel 2's move should be a game-changer, Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscast is a strong presence in this market without much of a lead-in and it might not be easy for Channel 2 to close the gap significantly immediately after its newscast moves to a strong Sinclair station a week from Monday. These things usually take time.

This market is very slow to change viewing habits, as my Saturday story in the printed edition of the Buffalo News about the resurgence of Channel 2 News will illustrate.

That noted local TV historian Pope Don Paul sent me a friendly Facebook message on Wednesday after I wrote that Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscast had been on longer than Channel 2’s.

Paul wrote that he remembered that Channel 2 started its 10 p.m. newscast a week before Channel 4 did. He is right and I appreciated his attempt to correct me. Honest. But I'm not wrong. 

Channel 4’s newscast still has been on longer because Channel 2 started that 10 p.m. newscast on a different station (the Pax affiliate) and dropped it for a few years before it returned on WNYO as part of an arrangement with Sinclair after Sinclair dropped its own local newscast.

WUTV General Manager Nick Magnini isn't sure if his station will be the last Fox affiliate to carry a 10 p.m. newscast, but he confirmed that Channel 29 has been one of the few without one.

Blame Jerry Seinfeld. “Seinfield” reruns have been a 10 p.m. staple on the station since it first went into syndication in 1995. Its ratings have diminished, but Magnini said that it isn’t the reason for the switch now to news and the move of “Seinfeld” to WNYO at 10 p.m. He said the recent success of
Channel 2 News was a big factor.

“They are a strong news operation,” said Magnini. “They already are No.1 and we’d like to be associated (more) with them.”

The second part of the Channel 2-Sinclair deal got little attention – carrying the 6 a.m. hour of Channel 2’s top-rated “Daybreak” first on WNYO and eventually on WUTV at 7 a.m. However, it also could have repercussions for Channel 4, which carries an extra hour of “Wake Up” on WNLO at that hour.  

It will be interesting to see if Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast on WUTV eventually out-rates NBC’s low-rated 10 p.m. prime time programs on Channel 2. Except for “Revolution,” NBC doesn’t have 10 p.m. hits.

Finally, I am writing this a few hours after watching Syracuse soundly defeat top-seeded Indiana in the East Regional in Washington, D.C. I bring this up to remind readers that CBS analyst Seth Davis predicted before the tournament that Syracuse would lose to Montana in the first round. Syracuse won that game by 47 points and now is in the Elite Eight. Davis has to feel pretty foolish by now.

To be honest, I didn’t see this Orange run coming. It is a reminder that predictions of basketball games or TV news ratings can make you look very foolish.

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