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Split Decision for Local News; Status Quo Here Nationally

Channel 2 News remains No.1 at 6 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Channel 4 News has reclaimed No. 1 at 6 p.m. and remains a dominant No. 1 at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

And Western New York isn’t buying into the tightening national battles in the morning or the nightly news.

Those are the highlights of the July sweeps, the least important of the four annual sweeps periods that concluded Wednesday night.

Locally, the only significant changes from May, which is much more important, is Channel 4′s reclaiming No. 1 at 6 p.m.. Channel 2 had won by a slight margin in May.

That’s good news for Channel 4, considering all of the personnel losses it has experienced in the past few years and the loss of Oprah Winfrey as its 5 p.m. news lead-in.

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In the first sweeps since anchor Victoria Hong left the early morning “Wake Up!,” Channel 4 saw audience gains at  6 a.m. from a year ago and very slightly narrowed the margin of victory by Channel 2’s “Daybreak.”

Channel 2 continued to win at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the post-Oprah era. At 6 p.m., Channel 4 wins with almost the same margin that it had a year ago when it was No. 1 from 5 p.m. through 6:30 p.m,. It dominates at 10 p.m. and at 11 p.m., with Channel 2 closer to third place Channel 7 than it is to first place Channel 4 (which has the same rating that it had a year ago).

The 11 p.m. news is Channel 7’s highest-rated. It improved by 15 percent from a year ago but still gets just slightly more than half the audience of first place Channel 4.

Nationally, the big news is ABC’s “Good Morning America” challenging NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s evening newscast anchored by Diane Sawyer challenging the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Neither national race is tightening here. The rating for “Today” this July after Savannah Guthrie replaced Ann Curry as Matt Lauer’s co-host is higher than it was a year ago. “GMA,” which has the burden of following Channel 7’s low-rated morning show, also saw a slight audience gain but is still behind “Today” by the same margin it was a year ago. The national morning show getting the most improvement from a year ago is the new more serious-minded CBS program co-anchored by Charlie Rose. Its local ratings rose 29 percent from a year ago, though it remains deep in third place.

At 6:30 p.m., Williams’ national newscast improved slightly from a year ago and remains a strong No.1 here. The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley is No.2 here ahead of Sawyer’s newscast. That undoubtedly more than anything has to do with the lead-in Channel 4 gives Pelley and the low-rating that third-place Channel 7 gives Sawyer as a lead-in.

In other things to note, Channel 2’s 11 a.m. newscast with anchor Mary Friona saw its rating improve by 37 percent. It now has a rating that is higher than Channel 7 receives at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The syndicated “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” which leave Channel 7 for Channel 4 in September, continue to win the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. access hour. “Wheel” actually had a ratings gain from a year ago, while “Jeopardy” slipped 9 percent.

Channel 4 sports director John Murphy ended his run at the station on the final night of the July sweeps with a classy goodbye that thanked just about everyone at the station that he worked with for the last four years. That included General Manager Chris Musial and News Director Joe Schlaerth, who aren’t as popular with many Channel 4 staffers as they apparently are with Murphy. The newscast ended with Channel 4 co-anchors Jacquie Walker and Don Postles presenting Murphy with a large cake. Murphy began hosting his new Buffalo Bills talk show on WGR Thursday night.

If you’re looking for an Olympics alternative, Channel 2’s digital channel that carries Antenna TV will be carrying an “All in the Family” marathon from 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday that features the memorable episodes with the late Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson before he starred in the spinoff “The Jeffersons.”

One more thing about Olympic coverage for all of you who have 3D sets. OK, both of you. Time Warner Cable has a special 3D channel of Olympic events and also has On Demand content of the London Games. Also a reminder: CTV carries today’s opening ceremonies live at 4 p.m., hours before NBC’s taped coverage with Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. Because London is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the States, NBC won’t be carrying any events live in prime time. However, it will be streaming everything live.

pergament@msn.com

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