'Twinkle Toes' Ward, Oprah lift WTAE ratings

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The recently completed May sweeps period confirmed what everyone already knew: it's good to have Hines Ward as your "Dancing" partner.

After ABC got the ball rolling with Season 12 of its popular reality competition, WTAE ran with it, posting notable gains in television news ratings over a similar four-week period in May 2010.

The spring sweeps book, which closed May 25, also included 20 Monday-through-Friday days of Oprah Winfrey's slate of farewell shows. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airs on WTAE, at 4 p.m. opposite news on KDKA and "Judge Judy" on WPXI.

Throw in the fact that the Penguins were eliminated early in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and from a Pittsburgh point of view, there was relatively little else besides the always-strong "American Idol" on Fox to siphon off viewers.

Mr. Ward, the Steelers wide receiver who scored a Mirrorball Trophy victory in "Dancing With the Stars," sparked a ratings bonanza for WTAE. Consistently the top network affiliate in ratings for the show, it enjoyed a 31.2 ratings average, including 38.9 for the May 24 finale.

The two-hour finale will be rebroadcast from 8-10 p.m. Friday in response to requests from some of the 42,000 Penn Power customers who missed it Tuesday night when storms caused a blackout. The rebroadcast will air on WTAE's ThisTV digital sub-channel, which is Channel 4.2 over-the air. On cable, channels are 204 and 188 on Comcast, 450 on Armstrong and 461 on Verizon FiOS.

WTAE, which regularly promoted "Dancing With the Stars" during its newscasts, showed morning gains at 5 and 6 in both household and demographic share ratings. "Oprah" helped it jump to No. 1 at 4 p.m. in household, and from third to second in demo, behind KDKA, which also moved up in that time slot.

One of the biggest shake-ups was at 5 p.m., where a year ago, KDKA, WPXI and WTAE ranked 1-2-3 in the demographic ratings. The 2011 sweeps had it WPXI, WTAE and KDKA.

At 6 p.m., WTAE flipflopped into first ahead of KDKA in household but remained third in demo. KDKA went from first to second in demo, behind WPXI, in its first May sweeps without longtime anchor Patrice King Brown.

The 10 p.m. newscasts saw little change, with WPXI news on WPGH first and KDKA news on WPCW second.

KDKA held onto its household lead at 11 p.m., where WTAE passed WPXI for second place, but that "Dancing" bump was evident in the demo rating for persons 25-54. A year ago, WTAE was in third place with a 3.3 demo share and 9 percent rating. It scored a 4.1 and 12 this time around, dropping KDKA and WPXI to second and third.

WPXI was a clear morning winner, scoring 75 percent growth among viewers age 25-54 with its 4:30 a.m. news and at 6 a.m. had the strongest demo rating among any morning or early evening newscast.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478. Rob Owen contributed to this story: rowen@post-gazette.com .


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