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Oprah Exits, Impact To Be Felt at Ch.4

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...

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OK, I missed most of the Oprah hoopla. On purpose.

It almost made the Katie Couric promotional tour when she became anchor of the CBS Evening News seem low-key and underhyped.

Oprah’s goodbye almost got as much attention as Will and Kate’s marriage.

I met Oprah once before she became Oprah.

I think it was former Channel 7 General Manager Steve Kimatian who brought Winfrey in to promote her new syndicated show. As I recall – and this was decades ago — there was a joke about Kimatian firing her from a news anchor job when he ran a station in Baltimore.

He actually upset Winfrey by moving her from the evening news to a morning show that led to the creation of the Oprah Winfrey that viewers have known and loved for 25 years. Winfrey owes Kimatian thanks for removing her from a role she apparently wasn’t suited for and then casting here in a role to become the superstar she is today.

Winfrey’s show was initially carried on Channel 7 here before the ABC affiliate let Channel 4 grab it rather than spend the money needed to renew it.

It was one of the dumbest decisions ever made in local television because it had a big impact on the decline of Eyewitness News and the emergence of News 4 Buffalo as the top-rated station in town.

A lot of tears were shed Wednesday as viewers watched Oprah’s low-key final show, a lecture in which she played teacher and reminded viewers about what empowerment messages she has sent out in a quarter century and what she learned from the audience.

I haven’t watched a lot of Oprah lately so I guess the reminder was warranted here. It felt like I was watching an hour-long therapy session, with Oprah reminding me of the importance of self-worth and controlling your own destiny.
I imagine her devoted fans loved it and were moved by it.

Some of the biggest tears might have been shed over at Channel 4, which is losing her as a news lead-in. She was an expensive lead-in, no question, as the cost of carrying her show remained high despite diminishing ratings. Now the question in the fall will be how much she was worth as a lead-in as Channel 4 faces a serious challenge from Channel 2 for news supremacy.

In the final Oprah-fueled sweeps period that ended Wednesday, Channel 4 remained No. 1 in household viewing everywhere but in the early morning, where Channel 2 has the lead.

The ratings were pretty consistent with the results in May 2010, which actually is a good thing for Channel 2 since Oprah’s Goodbye Tour led to a ratings spike for Channel 4′s news lead-in this May.

Her Monday telecast had a 7.9 rating, the celebrity-filled Tuesday telecast had a 9.2 and Wednesday’s final had a 11.1. Those are significantly higher than Oprah’s average in recent years and certainly higher than Dr. Oz will get next fall when his show moves from 3 p.m. to take Oprah’s 4 p.m. time slot.

According to sources, Channel 4 plans to fill Dr. Oz’s spot with a new talk show from CNN’s Anderson Cooper. But that hasn’t been announced yet.

Two things are noticeable about this May’s news numbers.

First, the Kathy Hochul-Jane Corwin-Jack Davis congressional race didn’t lead to a spike in news ratings and neither did the lousy weather.

Combined news viewership was flat or slightly down from a year ago just about everywhere but noon and 10 p.m. (where News 4 gets a strong 6.2 on WNLO.)
Secondly, Channel 7 News keeps falling. It improved at 6 a.m. to a 3.5 rating, which is still third place in the market by a considerable margin. It also gained at noon.

But it dropped at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. by a double-digit percentage and slipped 7 percent at 11 p.m.

How low can it go? Its rating at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. are the same as its rating at 6 a.m. Ouch.

Here is some more early things note from the May ratings.

The final “American Idol” competition between eventual winner and Alfred E. Newman lookalike Scotty McCreery over Lauren Alaina was surprisingly low. The Tuesday finale had only a 11.5 rating here on WUTV. The star-packed, two-hour finale Wednesday in which McCreery was announced as the winner at the end earned a 16.0 rating.

The end of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” had a bigger following here. The final competition program Monday had a 15.1 rating on Channel 7,  with the Tuesday finale in which Hines Ward and Kym Johnson were declared the winners getting an 18.1 rating.

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