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Retooled WCVB seizes top spot in news ratings

By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / November 26, 2009

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Anchor Randy Price helped catapult WCVB-TV (Channel 5) back into the top spot in the morning news race during November’s ratings period, while comedian talk show host Jay Leno continued to drag down his NBC affiliate Channel 7’s late newscast in Boston.

Preliminary ratings for November sweeps month, which officially ended last night, present a clear picture of how local programming changes have affected ratings through Tuesday night. The final numbers, which stations use to set advertising rates, will include last night’s tally and will be provided Monday by Nielsen Media Research.

WCVB regained its top spot during the morning newscast, considered the second-highest revenue generator after the 11 p.m. newscast. At 5 a.m., WCVB won with 49,500 total viewers, followed by WBZ-TV (Channel 4) with 35,000. At 6 a.m., WCVB led with 85,200 viewers, while WHDH-TV (Channel 7) finished second with 76,700.

WCVB, which had traditionally won the morning news race, lost that top spot in the past year to WHDH. WCVB hired Price, a former WHDH anchor, last June to co-anchor mornings with Bianca de la Garza.

“We have put a greater emphasis on the mornings to bring the audience back to WCVB,’’ said Bill Fine, general manager and president of WCVB.

WCVB also claimed victory at noon and the rest of the day and early evening newscasts. At 5 p.m., WCVB led with 156,600 viewers, while WBZ came in second with 113,500.

WCVB’s 6 p.m. program also drew the largest audience on average for a single newscast with about 193,800 total viewers. In that same hour, WBZ came in second with 121,800 viewers.

In late news, WFXT-TV (Channel 25) won at 10 p.m. against WLVI-TV (Channel 56) which had 50,200 viewers. WBZ got the top spot in terms of total viewers and most key demographics during the 11 p.m. newscast, which draws the most in advertising dollars.

WBZ did not want to comment. WFXT officials were not available for comment.

WHDH did not win any newscasts in total viewers in November but snagged first place in the 25-54 age group at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Advertisers target that demographic in local newscasts.

Chris Wayland, vice president and general manager of WHDH and sister station WLVI, partially attributes his station’s weak performance at 11 p.m. to the fact that the lead-in is Leno’s new 10 p.m. variety show, which debuted Sept. 14, but has had low ratings.

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.