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Local news race is tightening during May sweeps as viewership rises

The first two weeks of the final sweeps period of WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) co-anchor Scott Levin's TV career illustrate the closeness of the local news competition.

It also indicates that Channel 2 should be concerned about Levin's exit, which could lead to more viewers to sample the newscasts of its rivals.

At the halfway point of the sweeps, Channel 4 (WIVB-TV) and Channel 2 are in a tie in household ratings at 6 a.m., a time slot that Channel 2 usually dominates. The tie may be good news for Channel 4 co-anchor Brittni Smallwood, who has been filling in temporarily since Teresa Weakley left months ago and hasn't been named the permanent morning anchor.

Channel 2 wins at 5 p.m. as usual.

The 5:30 p.m. newscasts and the 6 p.m. newscasts are in a virtual tie in time slots that Channel 2 won a year ago.

Channel 2's 5:30 p.m. newscast is being anchored by sports director Adam Benigni in what appears to be a tryout to replace Levin after he exits at the end of the sweeps to work for the West Herr Automotive Group.

Channel 4 wins as usual at 11 p.m.

Perhaps the most surprising things about the May sweeps so far are the increased size of the news audiences and the failure of WKBW (Channel 7) to show any significant increases despite its markedly improved news product. Channel 7 remains deep in third place in all time periods that it competes, with a slight gain at 6 p.m. its best news.

News viewership usually declines in May with good weather, but household ratings have increased at 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., compared to a year ago.

For example, at 6 p.m., the combined rating of the three news departments is 24.5. A year ago when viewership was measured differently, the three stations combined for a 20.7 rating.

It is hard to pinpoint why household viewership has increased, though one possibility is the good weather hasn't arrived yet.


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