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RATINGS VICTORY FOR CH. 7 NEWS; 'ER' IS NO. 1, AND OPRAH TOPS ROSIE

The failure to ride CBS' prime-time success to No. 1 in the February sweeps should be an Olympic-size disappointment over at Channel 4 News.

The "something new" campaign at Channel 2 News hasn't translated into better ratings.

The developments at both stations help to explain why Channel 7 already has begun running promos saying it's "No. 1" during the February sweeps.

Channel 7's victory in February is all the more impressive because the prime-time programming of ABC -- its network -- may have been the lowest it has been in decades in this market.

Eyewitness News broke last year's February tie to become No. 1 at 5 p.m. with Keith Radford and Kathleen Leighton over Channel 4, 12-10; held on for a slim one-rating-point victory, 17-16, with Irv Weinstein and Susan Banks at 6 p.m., and amazingly maintained its four-point lead at 11 p.m., 16-12, with Banks and Radford even though Channel 4 had a huge lead-in advantage for two weeks with the Olympics.

Channel 4's lone victory was with Carol Jasen and Don Postles at noon, where it rode the lead-in from "The Price Is Right" to post a commanding four-point victory over Channel 7. Channel 4 and Channel 7 also are in a virtual tie at 6 a.m.

And Channel 2?

It may not have expected any ratings bounce from its new set and graphics and "something new" campaign, but it must have expected better than this. It gets a 4 rating at 5 p.m., a 5 rating at 6 and a 6 rating at 11, all declines from a year ago. It received positive news at 6 a.m., where "Daybreak" with Harold Fisher and Maryalice Demler doubled its ratings to a 2.

Now let's look at some other noticeable stories from the February sweeps:

Channel 4 Wins Prime Time: No surprise here. WIVB, which carried CBS' Olympic coverage for 17 nights, averaged a 16 rating and 26 share for first place. Channel 2, which is affiliated with NBC, was second with a 9 rating and 14 share. Channel 7, which is affiliated with ABC, had an 8 rating and 13 share. Channel 29, the Fox affiliate, had a 5 rating and 8 share but its demographics were slightly better than Channel 7, as they were nationally. Channel 49, which is affiliated with the WB Network, doubled its ratings from its first February and now averages a 2 prime time rating.

The local numbers follow the national figures, where CBS averaged a 13.8 rating; NBC, 9.6; ABC and Fox, 8.0. In other words, Channel 4 actually scored about 15 percent higher than CBS' national average despite competing for Olympic fans with Canada's CBC.

"ER" Is No. 1: The $13 million hour was No. 1 with a 25 household rating for three programs and a 20 rating for a special "ER" program. CBS' coverage of the Olympics dominated the Top 10, with five nights making the list. Besides "ER," the other regular programs on the Top 10 list are "60 Minutes," the CBS Sunday movie and "Seinfeld" (which was No. 1 with the age 18 to 49 audience).

"Nightline" Scores: For the half-hour at 11:30 p.m., Ted Koppel's news-oriented program averages a 7 rating and had more viewers than David Letterman (Channel 4) and Jay Leno (Channel 2) combined. Reruns of Archie Bunker and "All in the Family" on Channel 4 receive the same 3 rating as Letterman and Leno.

Jerry Scores for WNYO: The scary phenomenon of the popularity of talk show host Jerry Springer is in evidence on WNYO. "Springer" is the highest-rated show on the new station, getting a 6 rating and 21 share for Channel 49 at 11 a.m. He triples the audience of Channel 7's "Geraldo," which gets a 2 rating as the lead-in for the Channel 7 noon news. He also gets a 4 rating at 10 p.m., when the Jerrys collide -- Springer vs. Seinfeld.

Springer also is an easy advertising sell for Channel 49, with psychics and lawyers (undoubtedly believing that Springer's viewers are its future clients) the main buyers. Because of its strong daytime numbers and the weakness that Channel 29 has during those hours, Channel 49 and Channel 29 actually record the same 1 rating in most key demographics from sign-on to sign-off even though WUTV has a much stronger prime-time rating.

Seinfeld, Frasier Score for Channel 29: In what is believed to be the most lucrative hour of local television, Channel 29 reruns of "Seinfeld" at 10 p.m. get a 6 rating, which means it gets about as many viewers as Channel 2 News an hour later. And it gets a 9 rating for women 18 to 49, which ties it for first place in its time period. "Frasier," which Channel 29 returned to 10:30 p.m., averaged a 4 rating and had terrific demographics. "Party of Five" is also a big demographic hit for Channel 29, scoring an impressive 18 rating with women ages 18 to 34. "The X-Files" gets a 16 rating with men ages 18 to 34 and a 12 with men ages 18 to 49.

Daytime Disaster at Channel 2: "Montel" gets a 3 rating at 9 a.m. after "Today" (4 rating) signs off. But the station doesn't get more than a 1 for the next 2 1/2 hours with "Martha Stewart," "Leeza" and "Sunset Beach."

"Oprah" Overcomes "Rosie": Winfrey, who had a helluva February with a court victory and a prime-time miniseries success, "The Wedding," had a 9 rating at 4 p.m. for Channel 4 to Rosie O'Donnell's 7 rating on Channel 7. A year ago, Rosie won, 10-9.

Rather Climbing: As he is nationally, CBS' Dan Rather is on the move locally at Channel 4. ABC News with Peter Jennings remains No. 1 with 104,000 households, but "The CBS Evening News" with Rather is second with 86,000 homes. In November, Jennings won, 100,000 to 65,000. NBC News with Tom Brokaw, which does much better nationally, is a distant third here because of the sorry lead-in it gets from Channel 2.

"AJ" Has Surprising Life: King World already has canceled "American Journal," but Buffalo viewers may not understand why. It received a healthy 9 rating on Channel 4, finishing second to "Jeopardy!" on Channel 7 at 7:30 p.m. The real loser at that half-hour is Channel 2's "Mad About You" reruns. They get the same 3 rating that "M*A*S*H" gets on Channel 49. That's why Channel 2 is letting the show go next fall. It moves then to Channel 29.

Susan Banks: Her 11 p.m. newscast has a four-point lead.

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