Slow start for WBFF news

August 20, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

What if you spent several million dollars to launch a local newscast -- and then found out its audience was only about as large as the one you already had watching reruns of "Simon & Simon"?

That's the news WBFF-TV (Channel 45) got yesterday with the first ratings report card for "News at Ten," which was launched in June. The Nielsen audience survey for July said that about 19,000 Baltimore-area homes tuned in each weeknight to Channel 45's news, which airs from 10 to 11.

The Channel 45 newscast did slightly better in the Arbitron ratings survey, with an audience measured at about 28,000 homes.

Otherwise, the Arbitron and Nielsen ratings showed no significant overall change in local news standings: WJZ (Channel 13) is still the dominant No. 1 station, with WMAR (Channel 2) a solid second and WBAL (Channel 11) third.

The 19,000 homes tuned into WBFF's "News at Ten" (accordinto the Nielsen ratings) are but a fraction of the estimated 130,000 watching WJZ's top-rated 11 o'clock newscast. Even reruns of "Hunter" on WNUV (Channel 54) drew twice as large an audience as WBFF's news.

Nonetheless, Channel 45 General Manager Steve Marks called his station's ratings "a solid foundation to build upon. We knew this was not something where you just turn on the TV set and we would be popping huge ratings. . . . We're in for the long run."

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