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The Doctor Is In

Pittsburgh's top broadcasters are locked in a three-way battle this
fall, and each has a different plan for edging out the others. While ABC
affiliate WTAE has shuffled its news team, NBC affiliate WPXI has been
extending its news brand on other stations. And in an effort to cement its
longtime lead, CBS-owned KDKA has turned to Dr.

KDKA wins the key 6 and 11 p.m. time slots. But in morning, early-
evening and late news, less than one or two rating points in households and key
demos might separate KDKA from its rivals.

The station's major play for the fall has been to poach
Phil from WTAE, where it ran at 10 a.m., and
to position the syndicated powerhouse as a 3 p.m. lead-in to its news block in
the highly competitive early-evening daypart.

“We are very optimistic about the show's value as a lead-in with
households and demos,” says KDKA General Manager Chris Pike.

In May, the station tied WTAE for top ratings in 5 p.m. news and won 6
p.m. by less than two rating points. Phil is
already contributing, Pike says. Since the show's debut earlier this month,
ratings are up for the time slot and newscasts.

WTAE, meanwhile, has shaken up its anchor lineup since winning the
prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence in news last year.
Over the summer, the Hearst-Argyle station promoted morning anchor Wendy Bell
to the key 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts and bumped former 11 p.m. anchor Michelle
Wright to noon and 5 p.m.

The station has also pushed out veteran late-news anchor Scott Baker,
replacing him with 6 p.m. co-anchor Mike Clark.

For its part, Cox Broadcasting's WPXI has worked to find new outlets
for its news product. In January, the station began producing a 10 p.m. news
for Sinclair Broadcasting's Fox affiliate WPGH, which cancelled its own 10
p.m. show last fall.

In its first ratings book, last May, the WPXI-produced newscast was No.
1, outdrawing a 10 p.m. show that KDKA produces for its sister station, The CW
affiliate WPCW. (Sinclair owns Pittsburgh's other duopoly, WPGH and
MyNetworkTV affiliate WPMY.)

WPXI also delivers two live newscasts for a local Cox-owned cable news

“It is important to expose our brand to audiences where it hasn't
been seen before,” says General Manager Ray Carter.

In May, independent station WGBN, which airs movies, sports, and
religious and kids shows, added two-minute local-news updates in primetime
produced by Independent News Network, a third-party supplier.

Local broadcasters in Nielsen's No. 22 market took in $212.7 million
in gross revenue last year, down from $214.7 million in 2003, the previous
non-political year.

Station managers say the ad market has been challenged this year in part
by a soft automotive market and consolidation in banking and retail sectors.

Political advertising has been a bright spot, however, with a closely
watched Senate race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Democratic challenger Bob

The gubernatorial contest between Democrat incumbent Ed Rendell and
challenger Lynn Swann (a former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver) also has
sparked spending.

“We have two of the hottest races in the country,” says KDKA's
Pike. “Political has tightened the market significantly in the second half of
the year.”