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'Insider' Shines the Apple

CBS' The Insider, which the syndicator spun out of Entertainment Tonight in 2004, is turning in a strong performance on CBS' flagship station, WCBS, where the show airs at 7 p.m. leading into ET.

In the key women 25-54 demographic, the show scored a 2.6 rating/9 share in November, according to Nielsen Media Research, boosting the station to its first sweeps win in the time period in seven years and its best performance in the demo in eight years. That betters its lead-in—The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric at 1.2/5—by 117%. It also improves the time period over last November by 13% in the demo.

While The Insider loses to WABC's Jeopardy! in households, The Insider's performance also has improved year-to-year by that measure, jumping 14% to a 4.2/8.

With fragmentation the rule of the day, such increases are rare in television these days. But The Insider has several things going for it. The show moved its production to New York last fall, with increased promotional and programming focus targeted specifically for New York. Also, WCBS as a whole began doing better, with its newscasts jumping from third to second in many cases.

“No other entertainment magazine show broadcasts solely from New York,” says D.J. Petroro, co-executive producer of The Insider along with Linda Bell Blue. “We decided to seize that opportunity and make a change. We also wanted to have Lara [Spencer] and Pat [O'Brien] be standing next to each other. These are two powerful, fantastic broadcasters, and to have them next to each other makes a difference. It gives them a chemistry that you can't compare when they are on different coasts.”

The show also decided to place a decidedly New York emphasis on the show, covering celebrities who appeal to New York women, like billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump and former talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell.

“When we decided to move to New York, we decided to customize our content for the New York audience,” says Petroro. “The best example is when we wanted the first show of season four to have a big New York star, so we set our sights on Christie Brinkley. She hadn't given a sit-down interview since her break-up with Peter Cook. We got the first interview, and that was directly in response to us asking ourselves what New Yorkers want to see.”

The Insider also boasts a New York look and feel, with a studio that overlooks Times Square and featuring New York-inspired graphics.

The show is also getting a boost from WCBS' improvement in afternoon, early fringe and access. Comparing November 2007 to November 2006, CBS' Dr. Phil has moved from second to first place among women 25-54 at 3 p.m.; CBS' Judge Judy is holding strong in second place in households and the demo; and CBS 2 News at 5 has jumped from fourth to second place in households while holding on to second place in the demo. At 6 p.m., the station's revamped news has moved from third to second in households, while maintaining second place in the demo.

The CBS Evening News loses a little steam at 6:30 p.m., with the station falling to third in households, although the show has climbed from third to second in the demo.

Still, The Insider marks a high point in the station's day. Since last November, the show has jumped from second to first among women 25-54 and from third to second in households.

“I'm not too surprised by the improvement because prior to November the station had so much momentum,” says Peter Dunn, who became WCBS' general manager two years ago. “I think we've had the best November book we've had in two decades.”