This is what I'm thinking:
It looks like it is going to take awhile for local viewers to abandon Amy Gray, Andy Sipowicz, Lily Manning, Dr. Mark Greene, Jerry Seinfeld, Kramer and the "Law & Order" gang for Lisa Flynn and Victoria Hong.
The 10 p.m. news on Channel 23 and Channel 51 has hardly taken Western New Yorkers by storm. The night after Channel 4's newscast on WNLO-TV (Channel 23) premiered with a 3.9 rating, it slipped to a .5 rating - that's right a .5 - that must have shocked station officials. That means 85 percent of first-time viewers abandoned the newscast on Tuesday night. Or does it?
"You don't go from a 3.9 to a .5 without something being very wrong (in the measurement)," said Channel 4 and Channel 23 General Manager Lou Verruto.
By Wednesday, Channel 4's news on WNLO was back at a 3.8. Some of the Tuesday loss may have had something to do with the network programming on that night. The popularity of "Judging Amy," "NYPD Blue" and "Dateline NBC" on the three big networks and of "Seinfeld" reruns on WUTV leaves few viewers available at 10 p.m. Tuesday. However, on the second Tuesday of its newscast, WNLO scored a healthier 2.1 rating.
During the first week of Channel 4 competing with Channel 2 head-to-head, WNLO averaged a 2.4 rating and Channel 2 averaged a 1.1 rating on Pax affiliate, WPXJ-TV Channel 51. Channel 2 no longer is able to reveal how its 10 p.m. newscast is doing on WPXJ-TV because Pax isn't a Nielsen client.
The 3.5 combined rating that the two stations received the first week isn't very encouraging. The first two days of this week, Channel 4's WNLO newscast averaged about a 2 rating and Channel 2's WPXJ news about a 1.3.
The Buffalo TV news audience is known to react slowly to new alternatives and to stick with the things it likes. That's why Channel 7's "Eyewitness News" has ruled here for so long and why Channel 2 News has had so much difficulty competing. It could take months before the stations learn whether the 10 p.m. news is going to be a winner, and viewers will adjust to the lifestyle choice.
"It will take time, but eventually I'm expecting the 10 p.m. news will peak with a 5 rating," said Verruto. "It could take as long as six months. When you are asking people to change a lifetime of habits, it will take some time. There is a core group watching at 10 p.m. because it suits their lifestyle. Other people are married to prime time programming at 10 and watch the news at 11 p.m. And there also is a group that goes to bed at 11 p.m."
Channel 4 clearly has some advantages over Channel 2 at 10 p.m. WIVB's news is on its own station, which is easier to find on the UHF and cable dials. Channel 2's news is on a Pax affiliate with a signal that is located in Batavia and doesn't come in clearly in all areas of WNY.
Having a second station sure comes in handy during important press conferences. While Channel 2 had to preempt syndicated programming at 3 p.m. Friday to carry the Bills press conference with new coach Gregg Williams, LIN Broadcasting was able to keep CBS' soap operas on Channel 4 and carry the press conference on WNLO-TV.
Channel 4 made one deal with CBS that benefits both the network and the new station. WNLO-TV is carrying CBS' Saturday morning news program, which has been preempted here in the past by the station's own "Wake Up Weekend."
WNLO also is smartly repeating "Weekend Wake Up" at noon Saturday, enabling viewers who didn't get up in time to catch it on WIVB to get a second chance to get some local news before 6 p.m. on weekends.
With all the sports programming that Channel 4 preempts, you would hope that CBS would enable WIVB to put some of it on WNLO-TV. It won't happen. Verruto says that the network "won't even discuss it. Everything else we preempt, they would prefer not be carried anywhere but on the CBS affiliate."
We'll see tonight whether "Survivor" will keep its ratings momentum after its first 8 p.m. victory last week over "Friends" and "Saturday Night Live." Nationally, "Survivor" was the No. 2 program of the week (behind "ER"), with a 17.3 rating. "Friends" was No. 3 with a 14.2 and "SNL" tied for No. 8 with a 12.4. NBC has to be pleased that "Friends" did about as well as usual, meaning the audience coming to "Survivor" consisted of new viewers who probably wouldn't have been watching the popular series anyway.
In Buffalo, "Survivor" averaged a 22.5 rating, while "Friends" had a 17.8 for the first half hour. The second half hour started with an 18.9 and slipped to a 14.3 when "Saturday Night Live" had to compete with the vote on "Survivor" (which jumped to a 25.3 on Channel 4).
The big Thursday night winner here was the 9 p.m. premiere of the drama "CSI." It had a 21.4 rating on Channel 4, easily defeating "Will & Grace" (13.8) and "Just Shoot Me" (11.4) on Channel 2. The Buffalo market gave "CSI" (which averaged a 14.0 nationally) its highest rating in the country.
It looks like bad news is coming for Christine Baranski's new comedy, "Welcome to New York." Originally teamed with "Bette" to give CBS a strong 1-2 female punch on Wednesdays, "Welcome to New York" is leaving the schedule so the network can premiere a new comedy, "Some of My Best Friends." It stars Danny Nucci and Jason Bateman and is based on the film "Kiss Me Guido."
Bateman plays a gay writer, Nucci a macho guy who answers a classified ad and rooms with him. "Bette" moves to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on Feb. 28 and will need to do well there for Midler's show to get a second season. If this pairing works, it won't be the first time that Midler's career got a push from the gay community.
CBS also is premiering a new drama, "Kate Brasher," at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, in place of "Walker, Texas Ranger." Chuck Norris' show, which is in its final season, returns April 14. "Kate Brasher" stars Mary Stuart Masterson, Rhea Perlman and Hector Elizondo, which means that it is obviously more likely to appeal to fans of the 8 p.m. Saturday drama, "That's Life," than it is to Norris fans. Masterson plays a single parent who works at a community advocacy center. "That's Life," an adorable show about a thirtysomething woman who decides to better herself by going to college, could be on its last life. CBS is giving it two more episodes to impress viewers who have been ignoring it.
The one-two punch of "That's Life" and "Kate Brasher" is aimed at female viewers who aren't the Saturday audience for the XFL on NBC. In Buffalo last Saturday, the audience for "That's Life" jumped about 40 percent from the start as viewers quickly abandoned the football game.