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Dropping sports at 6 p.m. might be helping Channel 4

Some notes left on the cutting room floor, with some new material added:

• It is early, but from the initial returns, it doesn’t look like Channel 4’s decision to drop a traditional sports report on the 6 p.m. weekday newscasts is hurting the station’s ratings.

To the surprise of many area sports fans, it might even be helping.

For the three weeks ending April 12, Channel 4 had a higher rating at 6 p.m. than Channel 2 and saw a smaller drop-off in audience share in the second half of the newscast when sports normally would air than it had been getting for four weeks before the switch.

There are other variables – including who is vacationing – but so far the move to emphasize big sports stories in the first 15 minutes of the 6 p.m. newscast and drop the traditional sports report at around 6:23 p.m. seems to be working out surprisingly well for Channel 4.

• Marissa Perlman’s audition as Channel 4’s weekend anchor is expected to continue Sunday. If I had a vote, I’d give the job to Dave Greber, who auditioned two weeks ago and has another shot next weekend. He has an authoritative reading style and looks like an adult. My advice to Perlman is slow down. She talks very fast. She may look young enough to be at a college station even though she has had three years of seasoning in Elmira, where Channel 4 News Director Scott Levy used to work.

• I heard the cheering in Buffalo when I was out of the country after the National Football League declared it was going to end TV blackouts on an experimental basis this upcoming season.

In essence, the NFL ended the policy last season when there were no blackouts. Many games were declared sellouts even though empty seats were clearly visible in many stadiums.

In some ways, more pressure is on Bills fans this season to fill seats in late November and December for cold weather games because of all the optimism surrounding the franchise after the hiring of Coach Rex Ryan and high-profile player signings. With the season ticket sales going at a near-record pace, if the late games don’t sell out the NFL might point to the end of the blackouts as the reason.

• Speaking of the Bills, Channel 7’s newest sports hire, Joe Buscaglia, won’t be making any appearances on WGR radio talking about the NFL draft after all. Greg Ried, the general manager of all Entercom stations, said the radio station is replacing Buscaglia and doesn’t use other media reporters. When Buscaglia signed with Channel 7, there had been speculation that WGR still might use him.

• The late Tim Russert came off very well in the recent Vanity Fair article about the demise of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. Here are three excerpts about Russert from “The Inside Story of the Civil War for the Soul of NBC News” by Bryan Burrough: “In his first years on Nightly News, several colleagues say, Williams’ weaknesses were kept in check by other strong figures at the network, from (Tom) Brokaw and Russert to Steve Capus and a Nightly News executive producer named John Reiss. With the departures of each of these men, especially Russert, who died in 2008, Williams slowly consolidated his power.”

“There is NBC News before Tim died and after Tim died,” says one recently departed correspondent. “Tim was our soul, our conscience. ... When Tim died, and Brian pushed out John Reiss, there was no one who could influence Brian in a significant way, who could say, ‘Goddammit, Brian, you have to do this.’ ”

“What always bothered Tim [Russert] was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” said a source who knew both men. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

• You may recall that in October, I named NBC’s drama “The Mysteries of Laura,” which stars Debra Messing, one of the five worst new shows of the season because it looked like something out of the 1980s. And I was shocked at how well it performed early in the ratings. Its fans may be shocked to know that the series is still considered by many tipsters as being on the bubble of returning for a second season. The reason? Many of its viewers are in the older demographic that advertisers don’t care about.

By the way, the other four series that made the worst list were “The McCarthys,” “Mulaney,” “Bad Judge” and “Stalker.” They all have been canceled or are expected to be gone.

• I wish all anchors and reporters took constructive criticism as well as Channel 4’s Nalina Shapiro. By the way, Shapiro and Brittni Smallwood are the only Channel 4 survivors from the first wave of what I called Channel 4’s first Kiddie Corps of general assignment reporters.

Among those who have exited in the last five years are Anthony Congi, Rachel Kingston, Ed Drantch and meteorologist Bryan Shaw. The list doesn’t include other Channel 4 departures with more experience – including Diana Fairbanks, Lou Raguse, Emily Guggenmos, Joe Arena and Elysia Rodrigues.