WRC dominates D.C. TV news ratings in November 2009 sweeps

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WRC continued to dominate local TV news ratings during the November "sweeps," winning in every part of the day despite its chief rival's heavily promoted ticket giveaway and a widely publicized breast self-exam special report.

The NBC-owned WRC had the top-rated newscast at 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. during the month, one of the most important of the year because ratings during this period are used to set ad rates for the months ahead.

News4's top finish at 11 p.m. was especially significant, since it was achieved despite an anemic lead-in from NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. News4 -- which attracted 147,000 viewers at that hour, 21 percent more than runner-up WJLA -- is bucking a nationwide trend in which late newscasts on NBC stations are suffering from Leno's poor ratings.

WJLA, the ABC affiliate, was second to News4 at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. Its ratings were helped by an attention-getting series of reports on breast cancer that featured video of women performing self exams without obscuring their breasts.

"The breast-exam story gave us a little bump [in viewing] the first day" of the two-day report, said Bill Lord, WJLA's station manager. "We considered it a significant breakthrough in breast-cancer coverage. We were extremely pleased by the positive feedback we got from the audience both for selecting the topic and for the way we handled it."

WJLA may also have benefited from a pair of contests that it promoted during its newscasts that offered tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert and trips to tapings of Oprah Winfrey's talk show in Chicago.

Fox's WTTG was third at 5 and 6 p.m., surpassing WUSA, the CBS affiliate, at those hours. WTTG previously had the area's most watched newscast at 10 p.m. but has been eclipsed by WRC.

Overall, local news viewing continued to fall, continuing a long trend. Washington's four broadcast news stations, for example, attracted 417,000 viewers to the 11 p.m. news, a decline of 9 percent over the past two years.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company