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Ch.2 News: Such a Deal

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This is what I’m thinking:

* Nothing says there is no real news than when Channel 2 has trouble filling its Top 3 stories segment in the morning with three newsworthy items.

On Tuesday morning, the No. 3 story concerned Matt Granite’s ability to find viewers a deal to purchase glasses or sunglasses.

Now I love Granite’s enthusiasm and ability to comb the internet to find great deals. Channel 4 obviously loved it, too, because it didn’t take long to copy the idea and have anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes searching for deals in the morning.

But the No.3 story of the day is about getting a deal on glasses?

In the words of tennis great John McEnroe, “you cannot be serious.”

That wasn’t news. It was further evidence of the blurring of the line between news and what used to be considered advertising.

In this case, Channel 2 really was advertising that there wasn’t much news beyond the disaster in Japan and the trial of the accused City Grill shooter.  

*The first episode of MTV’s “Real World: Las Vegas” didn’t feature much of Buffalo State College student Naomi Defensor. It spent much more time on Nany Gonzalez, the Jamestown native who left her boyfriend back home to hang with four guys and two girls in a big apartment.

The opener that introduced the cast was painfully boring at times and made you wonder why this series inspired the reality-show craze that has just about ruined television. I’m guessing it had to be more painful to watch for Nany’s boyfriend, who received a few calls from Nany that didn’t go that well.

Perhaps we’ll see more of Naomi in tonight’s second episode. It has to be more fun than the opener, which divided the males into stereotypical characters. There is the obvious player, the humorous goody goody, the guy looking for a good time and the guy who is carrying a big secret. The girls weren’t as well defined.

* Fox just announced its summer schedule and the only original programming involves reality shows “So You Think You Can Dance” (May 26 premiere), “Masterchef” (June 6 premiere) and “Hell’s Kitchen” (July 19).

The most interesting use of reruns concerns “The Chicago Code,” the intriguing new cop series starring Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke (see together above) that currently runs after “House” on Mondays.  “Code” repeats will begin airing at 9 p.m. Saturdays on June 25 after episodes of the Fox reality series “Cops.” That should be a good match.

“House” repeats air at 9 p.m. Monday, repeats of “Raising Hope” and “Traffic Light” go back to back starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, “Glee” repeats air at 9 p.m. Thursday and  repeats of “Bones” and “Lie to Me” air back-to-back on Fridays.

pergament@msn.com

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Kilgore’s Best Memories of Martin on Website

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Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore is the dean of local sportscasters who was working for the NBC affiliate when the French Connection (see right with owner Terry Pegula) was a high-scoring machine in the National Hockey League in the 1970s.

So it was nice to see Kilgore give an instant commentary about former Buffalo Sabre Richard Martin on the 11 p.m. newscast that aired hours after the left winger’s death Sunday afternoon.

It is times like this that you expect the dean to come up big. But as is often the case, I expected more from Kilgore.

I eventually found much more, too, on a story that Kilgore did for Channel 2′s website. He tells some wonderful, humorous stories about Martin in a blog that undoubtedly will get a fraction of the audience that Kilgore’s televised memories did.

In his brief on-air commentary Sunday, Kilgore told the audience that he used to travel with the Sabres when Channel 2 carried the team’s games. Remember, well before cable was big and players wore helmets, Sabre games used to be ratings winners on first Channel 7 and then on Channel 2.

Kilgore added he became friends with Martin on those trips and had remained friends with the famous Sabre until his tragic death Sunday night.

The sportscaster told the audience that Martin was “unique” and a pleasure to be around even though Kilgore joked that the smoke from Martin’s cigars could be bothersome.

And that was pretty much it before a commercial break in which Kilgore promised more memories of Martin.

I went to bed. If that was the best Kilgore initially could do to memorialize a friend, there was no reason to stay up past 11:30 p.m.

In fairness to Kilgore, sports anchors don’t get much TV time to do detailed eulogies. And I always hated doing remembrances after famous people died. It isn’t easy capturing the spirit of someone unless you knew them well.

However, Kilgore told the viewers that he knew Martin well so one might have expected him to be able to explain what made the hockey legend so unique. He did eventually — on Channel 2′s website.

Channel 4′s John Murphy, who is second in longevity among local No. 1 sports anchors, weighed in briefly on Martin Monday. He said that those who knew Martin well “remembered him for his wit, approachability” and generous nature. 

The best on-air remembrances of Martin came on news reports and WGR radio. Channel 2 did a nice piece on Martin’s kindness and thoughtfulness when it came to visiting sick children.

But it was calls to WGR radio from the ordinary people who ran into him over the years here and even in the Caribbean (one guy said he saw Martin there last week) that were the most enlightening. Those callers spoke to Martin’s uniqueness.

Almost all the eulogies Sunday on the air and in print left out more details than they gave.

Fans were told that Martin had a great slap slot, was a lot of fun to be around and did more than his share of charity work.

What they didn’t learn was what Martin has been doing since his National Hockey League career ended prematurely almost 30 years ago because of a knee injury. You had to wonder if he could have lived off his salary all these years since players weren’t making millions back then.

One report noted that Martin was a successful businessman but didn’t say what kind of business he was involved in.

Like Kilgore, I’ve been around since the days of the French Connection. I used to have season tickets at center ice in the last row of the oranges in Memorial Auditorium. As I’ve written before, I was the guy that had the Sabres announce before every game in the Aud that the no smoking role applied to the standing room only area in the balcony. I also covered the Sabres in a backup role as a sports reporter.

But my favorite memory of Martin wasn’t from watching or covering a game in the Aud. It was when the Sabres played a game in Montreal and the Quebec native on the French Connection scored a goal.

I can still hear the French Canadian announcer in the old Montreal Forum say “Buffalo goal scored by Ric-hard Mar-ton, on assists from Gil-bert Perr-ough and Rene Ro-bert.”

Now that was a unique call. I couldn’t get it out of my mind Sunday night. And I just wished one of the stations had found an old tape of the call and played it just once.

It would be fitting if the call was played at least once March 24 at Martin’s memorial service at HSBC Arena.

* Tonight’s opening round games of the NCAA tournament on truTV will not be carried in high definition on Time Warner Cable. A TWC spokesman said the cable company doesn’t have an HD carriage agreement with the channel, which is carried on digital channel 74.

pergament@msn.com

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Ch.4′s Vague Programming Plans

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This is what I’m thinking.

* Chris Musial, the general manager of WIVB-Channel 4 and WNLO-Channel 23, threw out a minor surprise during some brief taped comments to viewers that aired over the weekend and today. Musial was addressing the deal the channels’ owner made with DISH network to get the channels back on the satellite provider.

Musial dropped in a vague line about there being “new programming opportunities.” That  raised more questions than answers.

I’ve been hearing that either WIVB or WNLO will soon premiere a Buffalo-themed show that will be the answer to Channel 2’s “WNY Living” and Channel 7′s “AM Buffalo.”

In other words, it probably will be new “paid” programming opportunities.

The rest of Musial’s speech seemed to be designed to counteract the negativity surrounding the recent battles that LIN Media, the stations’ owners, has had with providers like DISH.

The fights over money are getting more than a little tiresome.

* After a few weekends of giving the appearance of a college TV station, Channel 4 inserted Joe Arena into weekend anchor duties.

You have to sympathize with Arena, whose work schedule may make it difficult for him to get any consistent sleep habits. Some days he anchors at 5 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. That’s tough enough on your sleep habits without adding occasional weekend duties.

Of course, Arena isn’t alone in this market with the 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. schedule. Channel 2’s Jodi Johnston has done it for years.

I turned on Ch.4’s “Wake Up” this morning and half expected to see Arena again. But Melissa Holmes joined Victoria Hong.

* Not surprisingly, CBS and ESPN basketball analysts had widely different takes on Selection Sunday about how well the selection committee did in selecting bubble teams for the NCAA tournament.

CBS, which is one of the four networks carrying March Madness, took the reasonable approach about the omission of Colorado and Virginia Tech and the inclusion of VCU, Clemson, Alabama-Birmingham and Georgia.

Analysts Seth Davis, Greg Anthony, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley (yes, Charles Barkley), Clark Kellogg and play-by-play man Jim Nantz discussed the controversial choices calmly and seemed to generally support the committee.

ESPN analysts Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale were outraged.

Bilas said the selections “didn’t pass the laugh test” and added that he wondered  if some of the committee members making the selections knew that the basketball was round.

Of course, ESPN doesn’t carry the tournament so it can let the venom fly.

* By the way, you may be wondering where Tru TV, one of the three cable channels carrying some tournament games, is located on your cable or satellite provider. I had to check. It is on Ch.74 on my Time Warner system. It isn’t carried in high definition channel on TWC, which is surprising since the truth is just about every cable channel is in HD these days.

* Speaking of truth, there was so much basketball and hockey on over the weekend that I needed a sports break and used it to catch excerpts of the absolutely wonderful PBS special about the 25th anniversary of the musical “Les Miserables” from London.

WNED-TV is using it as a fund-raiser this month and is repeating it a few times. The next prime time airing that I see on the schedule is at 7 p.m. Friday. If you set your DVR, make sure you have enough space for the full four hours. The last hour featuring original Colm Wilkinson and the three other guys playing Jean Valjean is incredibly moving.

The first time I saw this special I didn’t watch the final hour because I thought the show was over after the first ending. Don’t make the same mistake that I did.

By the way, the London production features Nick Jonas (see above) of the Jonas brothers as the romantic Marius. And he is incredibly expressive and impressive. It will be a shocker to everybody who just thought the Jonas Brothers was just another boy band. Nick isn’t new to Les Miz. He played street urchin Gavroche on Broadway several years ago.

pergament@msn.com

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“Idol,” “House” and Law” Thoughts

Mark Harmon photographed by Jerry Avenaim.

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And the most popular prime time television show in Western New York is…

“NCIS” with Mark Harmon (pictured here), which is carried locally on CBS affiliate Channel 4. 

Yup, it isn’t Fox’s “American Idol.”

In fact, “Idol” — which used to go head-to-head with “NCIS” on Tuesdays–   wasn”t even No. 2 during the February sweeps.

“The Big Bang Theory,” which CBS moved from Mondays to Thursdays to collect more advertising dough, is No.2.

The “Idol” Wednesday edition is No.3 and the Thursday edition is No.4 , about two ratings points lower than the CBS shows ahead of it.

And there are seven CBS shows within 2.5 points of “Idol.”

There are several points being made here.

1) While “Idol” remains a very popular show in Western New York despite the absence of judge Simon Cowell, it no longer dominates and in fact gets viewership close to several other Top 10 shows. 

2) It is Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate, that dominates here. It has 15 of the Top 17 prime time shows here – the other two being “Idol.”

“Criminal Minds,” “The Mentalist” and “Two & a Half Men” – all of which get or will get big syndication revenue that “Idol” won’t get – are within a point or so of “Idol.”

3) It should be noted that one reason that CBS shows do so well here is because many of its series appeal to the area’s older demographics.

Of course, “Idol” was bound to drop because it is an aging show, Cowell left and many newspapers can no longer to afford to have a staffer blog each night’s performance and increase the show’s awareness and increase hype. But the drop here is much bigger than the national average.

I always find it interesting to see what WNYers are watching in prime time. Here are some more things to note after taking a look at the Top 50 shows in WNY:

* “Two & a Half Men” remains the most popular sitcom in WNY and will be missed in May when the aftermath of the Adventures of “Malibu Messiah” Charlie Sheen really will hit. By the way, CBS doesn’t pay Sheen $2 million an episode, Warner Brothers (which produces the show) pays him. However, CBS is saving money by not having to pay Warners for episodes it doesn’t make.

* CBS’ February experiment of putting Tom Selleck’s “Blue Bloods” on Wednesdays paid off. It was the No. 12  rated show here, only behind the “Criminal Minds” spinoff as the top-rated new program.

* The football-themed Super Bowl episode of “Glee” was a silly disaster, but the Fox show probably has become a bigger local hit because of it. It averages a double-digit rating here and at No. 18 gets Fox’s best rating except for “Idol.”

* “House” is just behind “Glee” despite the continuously exasperating and time-wasting romantic story line between House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Enough already.

* ABC’s top-rated show here is the aging “Grey’s Anatomy” at No. 20. It also is the only ABC show that averages a double-digit rating on Channel 7. The Emmy-winning sophomore comedy “Modern Family” is only behind “Grey’s” and “Desperate Housewives” here among ABC series. As if Channel 7 doesn’t have enough problems.

* David E. Kelley’s incredibly silly new liberal legal drama starring Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law,” is the top-rated NBC program on Channel 2 at No.21. It also averages a double-digit rating. Kelley appears to know America’s taste better than critics like me.

* The stylishly appealing new Fox police drama “The Chicago Code” is doing decently on WUTV on Monday even if it is losing too much of its “House” lead-in.

* The only NBC comedy in the Top 50 shows is “The Office,” which is losing star Steve Carell. However, NBC’s comedies get decent demographics and that keeps them on the air.

* While 10 p.m. weekday shows are losing audience nationally, WNYers seem to be staying up to watch “Harry’s Law” on Monday, “The Good Wife” on Tuesday, “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” on Wednesday and “The Mentalist” on Thursday. Or at least recording them and watching them later. They all averaged double digit-ratings in February.

 pergament@msn.com

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Sports Coverage Is Out of Whack

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 I picked up the sports section of the Buffalo News today and saw the three-column headline in the center of the page: “Bulls get the heave-ho.”

My immediate thought was that the University at Buffalo basketball team lost Wednesday in the Mid-American Conference Tournament?

I thought they weren’t playing until tonight.

Sure enough, there was a one-column story to the right of it with the headline “UB faces formidable foe in Kent.”

The Bulls who lost Wednesday were the UB women, the ones playing tonight are the UB men.

Having a UB women’s team nicknamed the Bulls is a little comically confusing.

But that’s not the only thing I’m confused about.  I’m often confused when it comes to coverage of women’s basketball in the area. The headlines often don’t say if it was the college men or the college women who won or lost games.

At the risk of being politically-incorrect and losing a few fans, I also will admit to being a little confused about why women’s college basketball gets so much coverage here. The coverage can be a little funny when stories include the line about the crowd of 400 or so. That’s hardly a “crowd.”

Of course, Title IX doesn’t apply to newspapers. Newspapers aren’t required by the federal government to cover men’s and women’s college sports equally or out of whack with interest.

In these days of declining circulation and revenue, you would think newspapers would be driven by interest and give their sports readers what they want to read.

The one statistic that is notably absent from the game story of UB’s loss to Central Michigan was the attendance in Cleveland.

I’m guessing it wasn’t too high because TV footage of women’s games usually shows the stands to be pretty empty and certainly much less filled than they are for men’s games. According to the UB website, no women’s home game this season drew more than 800 people and several were in the 230-500 range.

If you look at today’s newspaper, you might think we live in Connecticut or Tennessee, where women’s basketball is huge.

I’m not saying that the UB women’s game didn’t deserve to be covered. I’m just thinking two front page stories about it seemed a bit much on a page that undoubtedly shouted to sports readers “get me to the USA Today sports section.”

Of the five stories on the front page of the Buffalo News sports section, three of them are about women’s or girls basketball.

Two of them are on the UB women’s game, including a strong column about senior Kourtney Brown, the UB player who was the MAC women’s basketball Player of the Year.

After reading it, I almost wished I had gone to see her play some time in the last four years.

But I didn’t and nor did most of Western New York. The area just isn’t into women’s college ball that much.

The story didn’t say where Brown is from. I was guessing she isn’t from around here before I checked on the UB website. She is from Ohio. Only two members on the UB roster are from around here – one from Olean and another from Rochester.

I bring that up because the third story on the sports front page about women’s basketball was about local high school girls.

High school girls deserve the same coverage as high school boys because they are local kids with parents who are just as proud of their daughters playing basketball as they are about local sons who play basketball here. And many of their games draw decent-sized attendance.

I’m sure that defenders of the women’s college game probably are thinking that their attendance will eventually increase locally if the newspaper gives them more coverage.

But the paper has extensively covered women’s college sports for years and attendance hasn’t ballooned.

In these struggling financial times, I would think the newspaper would be less concerned about being politically-correct and more concerned about giving readers better coverage of the national and local sports they likely are more interested in reading about.

pergament@buffnews.com

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Fallen “Idol”: Audience Drop Bigger Here

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This is what I’m thinking:

* It was interesting to read in the Buffalo News Tuesday that the national ratings for “American Idol” are “only” down about 7 percent from a year ago despite the departure of judge Simon Cowell.

That was a surprisingly low defection rate because I get the sense around here that interest in “Idol” is way, way down.

So I asked a local researcher how “Idol” is doing here.

My suspicions were correct. “Idol” is down 19 percent locally from a year ago with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler alongside Randy Jackson.

A year ago to this point, “Idol” averaged an 18.6 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on WUTV-29, the local Fox affiliate. This year on Wednesdays and Thursdays, “Idol” is averaging 15.0. That still is a very strong rating. I expect it is either No.1 in prime time in Western New York or close to it.  

I’m guessing “Idol” probably would be down even more if the shows that compete with it on Thursday nights were stronger and younger. The truth is that ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS’ “CSI” are old by TV standards and losing audience at a higher rate than “Idol.”

“Idol” also benefits from never airing a repeat. This is especially beneficial for several weeks in March and April in between the sweeps months of February and May. After all,  the “Idol” competition is often in repeats in March and April.

My guess is that “Idol” is doing best nationally in smaller markets or markets in which the show had contestant tryouts.

* One of my students told me the best Charlie Sheen jokes making the rounds even if it may end up being factually incorrect.

Question: How much cocaine has Charlie Sheen used?

Answer: Enough to kill “Two and a Half Men.”

It was interesting to see a lawyer argue on “Today” that Sheen had a good case to reclaim his lost earnings in a lawsuit against Warner Brothers, which produces “Men” and fired him.

I’m no legal expert. But Warner Brothers did the humane thing to fire Sheen. It was common sense to conclude that he had to be let go in the hope that he would get his life in order.

Today’s installment about the self-proclaimed “Malibu Messiah” on “Today” featured some psychological experts who believe the actor is dangerously self-destructive and should be placed in treatment against his will.

One imagines they are potential witnesses for Warner Brothers.

By the way, “Today” reported that Rob Lowe (see above) was approached to replace Sheen on “Two and Half Men.” If true, that’s a much better casting choice than John Stamos. After all, Lowe (who went to the same high school as Sheen), was involved in a few scandals of his own before rehabilitating his image.

* Some conspiracy theorists wondered why Channel 4 anchor Melissa Holmes hasn’t been on WNLO’s morning newscast this week. They suspected it might have had something to do with her tweet to one of the daughters of Sabre Owner Terry Pegula in which she asked about a media job.

Holmes is on vacation and expected to be on the air Thursday. Anchors often go on vacation after the February sweeps. Jacquie Walker is on vacation, too.

* A reminder: Buffalo State College senior Naomi Defensor and Jamestown’s Nany Gonzalez are among the seven housemates in the tonight’s premiere of the 25th anniversary edition of the “Real World.” ”Real World: Las Vegas” airs at 10.

pergament@msn.com

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Amazingly, Local News Viewership Is Up

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Local TV News is still very popular in Western New York.

In fact, it was more popular here in February of 2011 than in February of 2010.

This is quite an achievement when you consider that the local stations are hiring younger staffers and asking their veterans to do much more than they’ve done in the past.

Of course, there have been some big stories in late January and early February – the Hassan trial, Terry Pegula (see above) taking over the Buffalo Sabres and the weather.

And big stories drive viewership.

But there are always big stories.

Amazingly, the combined audience for news at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. during the February sweeps was higher than it was a year ago.

The one news time period where total audience declined was at 6 a.m. and that was by such a small margin — .1 of one percent – that it is statistically irrelevant.

The biggest news gains were at 5 p.m., where Channel 2 is now in a statistical tie with Channel 4, and at 11 p.m.

Why are viewers watching local news more of anchors Don Postles, Jacquie Walker, Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler and other anchors than they did a year ago?

Maybe the lousy winter weather kept more people – and potential viewers — at home.

It isn’t because local news coverage is better than it has been.

If anything, it is much weaker than it was years ago before economic concerns lowered the staffing and experience levels at first Channel 7 and now Channel 4 and led to more “team coverage” of so-called big stories to fill time.

The news departments do very little beyond covering the big stories, the easy-to-do crime stories, the obvious stories and the weather. Rarely do they do any so-called “enterprise” stories – stories that they break – because they don’t have the staffs to find them and cover them.

 It is commonly assumed that salaries are being cut and cheaper young reporters are being hired out of college because the stations are in financial difficulty.

But actually, TV has made a financial comeback this year at many stations across the country.

Salaries are being cut here because station owners believe reporters and anchors are overpaid in Buffalo relative to the declining market size.

I’m told that some high-profile anchors in town have quietly taken pay cuts — in some cases substantial cuts — in the last few years to keep their jobs.

While former Channel 4 anchor Mylous Hairston wouldn’t say whether he was offered a raise or a pay cut in his last contract offer before he decided to leave, I’d guess he was offered a pay cut.

So the good news for local TV anchors and reporters is that viewers still care very much about the news. The bad news is that management doesn’t care whether they can afford to live as well as they have in the past.

pergament@msn.com

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Labor Peace at Ch.7 Finally

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The truck parked near Channel 7 with the sign that says “Turn Off Channel 7” finally can be moved.

After almost two years working with a contract imposed by management, about 40 technicians and on-air personnel at the station approved a new contract Thursday night.

According to Bob Hellwicz, the vice president of Channel 7′s NABET chapter, the deal runs until Dec. 31, 2014 and includes retroactive raises of between 1.5 percent and 7 percent. He said the workers making the least amount of money receive the higher percentage raise.

In return, management gained jurisdiction over jobs that essentially enables it to decide who has to do what job.

And management also gets to see that truck (described by one blog reader as something out of the “Beverly Hillbillies”) – and many other signs in the area with a similar message – moved.

The two sides resumed negotiations after the union filed charges against management with the NLRB that included the failure to negotiate.

The labor peace may make it easier for Channel 7 to be sold.

It isn’t as exciting as if the NFL owners and players made a deal, but the labor peace between Channel 7 workers and their owner is worth cheering.

 * If you missed Wednesday’s nostalgic and moving installment of American Masters featuring Carole King and James Taylor (see above), Jackson Browne, Steve Martin and others, circle 9 p.m. March 20. That’s when WNED-TV plans to repeat the extraordinary program, “Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter.”

* Tune in Alert: AMC carries a six-episode marathon of its highly-rated and highly-entertaining zombie series “The Walking Dead” at 8 tonight. Just don’t expect to sleep after it is over.

* Inquiring minds want to know: What are the news ratings like at 10 p.m.  and 11 a.m. weekdays? OK, one person asked and he’s in the business.

At 10 p.m., Channel 4’s News on WNLO dominates Channel 2’s News on WNYO, 6.1-1.9. The 6.1 is a higher rating than many prime time shows and all of Channel 7’s newscasts receive.

At 11 a.m., the Channel 2 newscast anchored by John Beard jumped by 12 percent from a year ago to 3.7.

* With the February sweeps over, it is time for cable subscribers to head to PrimeTime On Demand to catch up on old episodes that they have missed. I got one surprise recently using the feature. ABC doesn’t allow viewers to fast forward through the commercials. Still, it doesn’t run that many of them.

* I tuned into Sandy Beach on WBEN-AM one afternoon this week and heard him talk about the networks making money on NFL games. Actually, the networks pay such a big rights fee that they collectively lose money on the games. ESPN makes money on Monday Night Football because it sells advertising and gets cable subscriber fees. Fox, CBS and NBC essentially use the games as a loss leader. So Sandy was mistaken. But at least he wasn’t spreading misinformation about political issues as he often does.

pergament@msn.com

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Local News Race Tightens in February

Channel 4 remains the top-rated news station in town, but the competition between it and Channel 2  tightened in the early afternoon during the just-completed February sweeps.

The good news for Channel 4 is remains No.1 and the anchor team of Joe Arena and Victoria Hong is practically in a statistical tie with Channel 2′s John Beard and Jodi Johnston at 6 a.m. in household viewing after being behind by more than a point a year ago and in November.

The good news for Channel 2 is that the anchor team of Scott Levin and Johnston gained 30 percent at 5 p.m. from a year ago and now the newscast is practically in a statistical tie with Channel 4 in that half hour.

The ratings are flat at 6 p.m., with Channel 4 holding a lead of less than a point.

Channel 4 has its biggest lead at 11 p.m with anchors Don Postles and Jacquie Walker, but that could be largely attributed to the strong lead-in it gets from CBS prime time programming and the weak lead-in that Channel 2 anchors Levin and Maryalice Demler get from NBC prime time programming.

And Channel 4’s lead at 11 p.m. is significantly lower than it was a year ago when Channel 2 had the benefit of an Olympic lead-in. 

Oh, you are wondering about Channel 7?

It is a distant third in all time slots, but it did see improvements in a few time slots.

Of course, these are households ratings. Channel 2 often does better when the demographics arrive later in the month.

pergament@msn.com

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Gray, Cruz Exiting Local TV News

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This is what I’m thinking:

* Say goodbye to Channel 7 reporter Laura Gray.

She is leaving Television’s Titanic on Friday to become a communications specialist at Delaware North.

I thought so highly of Gray that I wondered why she wasn’t given the co-anchor slot instead of Bridget Blythe on “Eyewitness News This Morning” or whatever it is called now.

Channel 7 apparently plans on replacing her with someone just out of college. It has sent out feelers to the Buffalo State College communications department for a person who can shoot his or her own stories. 

*Channel 7 management and negotiators for the union that represents technicians and on-air talent at the station, NABET, have reached a tentative agreement that will be voted on by union members at a meeting tonight.

NABET members have been working on a contract imposed by management for two years.

If the vote passes and labor peace is achieved, the station may be more attractive to potential buyers.

* Say goodbye to Channel 4 reporter Tricia Cruz, who confirmed that she is leaving the top-rated station in town Wednesday, when her contract expires.

“I am taking time off to spend with my parents, who spend most of their time in Santiago, Chile,” she wrote in an email to stilltalkintv.

Cruz wrote that she was not planning to renew her contract and gave a month’s notice that she was leaving. She doesn’t have a job lined up and wrote she is looking “for something outside of TV.”

“For as much as I’ve enjoyed working in Buffalo and at Channel 4 — it’s time for me to move on,” she wrote.

The departure of Cruz should please some viewers since she was frequently the target of people who were annoyed by her voice and style. Those things never troubled me. I thought her voice was distinctive.

* The Buffalo News ran a story Wednesday about declining national ratings for Sunday’s Oscars on ABC. The only place to read about the declining local ratings on Channel 7 was here. The 24.1 rating on Channel 7 was about 7 percent lower than the rating for the 2010 Oscars here. But it was still higher than the 21.0 national rating.

* It was no surprise that Showtime renewed the Matt LeBlanc comedy “episodes” for another season. It was well received by critics. However, the renewal of the drama “Shameless” – which was critically slammed – was a surprise.

Showtime also announced that “Nurse Jackie” and “The United States of Tara” return on March 28. “Weeds” and “The Big C” return June 27.

* TV Land has renewed “Hot in Cleveland” with Betty White, Williamsville’s Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves (see cast picture above) for a third season. No surprise there. It is a ratings hit for the basic cable channel.

* Loved Tuesday’s “The Good Wife” February finale, even if I saw the surprising twist about the partnership vote 30 minutes before the end. It was telegraphed. I’ll give you time to watch it on your DVR before talking more about it.

*Speaking of “The Good Wife,” Channel 4 ran some annoying crawls Tuesday telling DISH subscribers they could lose the channel and WNLO on Friday if a new deal between DISH and the stations’ owner, LIN Media, isn’t reached. Puh-lease. Enough already. Most HD sets can easily get the LIN Media channels with a rabbit ears antenna attached. If I were DISH officials, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to pay LIN to carry the channels. It isn’t like the channels carry Buffalo Sabres games. 

pergament@msn.com

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