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Johnson-Sullivan anchor duo paying off for WBBM-Channel 2

Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson

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Nielsen Feb. ratings for late local newscasts Mon.-Fri.

Station 2011 Feb. lead-in Feb. 2011 Feb. 2010

Ch. 7 6.1 (213,500)* 9.7 (339,500) 9.8 (343,000)

Ch. 2 7.4 (259,000) 6.0 (210,000) 5.2 (182,000)

Ch. 5 4.7 (164,500) 5.5 (192,500) 6.8 (238,000)

Ch. 9 2.2 (77,000) 5.3 (185,500) 4.5 (157,500)

Ch. 32 5.9 (206,500) 2.3 (80,500) 3.4 (119,000)

* = households

Updated: June 4, 2011 4:47AM

The February Nielsen TV local news ratings released Thursday were good for CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. But the numbers were sure to cause even more hand-wringing and rethinking of things at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

WBBM’s late newscast surged into second place in the February book with a 6.0 rating Monday through Friday, up nearly a full rating point from its 5.2 showing a year ago. That put Channel 2 in second place overall behind perennial frontrunner ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, which notched a commanding 9.7 rating for its 10 p.m. news report, down a sliver from a 9.8 a year ago.

WBBM’s improved showing comes six months after Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan were introduced as the permanent co-anchors of the station’s late newscast. That suggests the duo is beginning to gain traction, which has to be an encouraging development for WBBM news director Jeff Kiernan, on board now for two years.

WBBM also is making headway in holding on to more of its lead-in, which was a 7.4 in February. But the station’s late news rating still needs to match or beat its lead-in number for management to declare a major victory.

At Fox’s Channel 32, the news only gets grimmer each month. The 9 p.m. newscast slid to a lowly 2.3 rating in February, down more than a full rating point from the 3.4 it scored a year ago.

The co-anchor team of Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson have been in place since July, which suggests the duo hasn’t been able to help move the ratings needle in the right direction.

But more troubling, perhaps, is WFLD news management’s seeming inability to decide on a workable format for the newscast. Sirott, who wields some power in the news department, looks to be leaning towards a newscast that resembles the “Chicago Tonight” program he formerly hosted on WTTW-Channel 11, though a more thoughtful, in-depth concept might not jive with the younger WFLD core audience.

Meanwhile, NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 wound up in third place overall in the February late news ratings race with a 5.5 rating, down substantially from the 6.8 it scored a year ago when the huge lead-in from the Vancouver Winter Olympics for much of the month helped boost news viewership.

But this February, WMAQ had the worst lead-in number (4.7) for any late newscast in the market with the exception of Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9. While WGN had only a dismal 2.2 rating for a lead-in, the station’s 9 p.m. news report still impressively managed to more than double that to end up in fourth place with a 5.3 rating, up from a 4.5 rating a year ago.

WGN’s late news with co-anchors Mark Suppelsa and Micah Mattere has begun to hit its stride as WFLD, its direct competitor at 9 p.m., continues to flounder.

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