WUTB celebrates first successful year

TV: Compared to the major local stations, the young UPN affiliate is hardly on the map yet. But its numbers are climbing steadily.

January 20, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

UPN may be having its troubles as a network, but its year-old Baltimore affiliate, WUTB, Channel 24, is doing all right for itself.

The station, which was hurriedly thrown together last year after WNUV, Channel 54, switched its allegiance to WB, has seen its audience climb steadily over the past 12 months.

And as the WUTB folks gather at the Inner Harbor's ESPNZone for tonight's birthday bash, they're confident the numbers will only get better.

"In every possible aspect, we've succeeded far beyond our expectations," says station manager Jeff Weiss, who this time last year faced the unenviable task of building a TV station essentially from scratch. "We've been able to go from a position where people were questioning whether the market needed a sixth station to where we're [performing well] and doing a very good job of getting ourself known."

While WUTB's numbers aren't spectacular, they are comparable to those for WNUV.

For the week ending Jan. 13, WNUV garnered a 5 share, compared with 3 for WUTB (share measures the percentage of households watching television that are tuned to a particular station).

That's a 50 percent growth over the same period last year for WUTB, compared with a 29 percent decrease for WNUV.

While some of that growth is simply because more people have become aware of the station's existence over the past year (the station made its debut with almost zero fanfare), WUTB has also performed better than most UPN affiliates.

Nationally, UPN for the season to date has a 2.0 rating, 3 share, compared with a 2.3 rating, 4 share in Baltimore.

One of the UPN shows that does particularly well in Baltimore is "Moesha." During the November sweeps, the sitcom starring Brandy outdid its competition, WB's much-heralded "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" by 15 percent. "Moesha" garnered a 4.7 rating, "Buffy" a 4.1. Nationally, "Buffy" had a 4.0 rating and "Moesha" had 2.7.

WUTB's numbers may not be fantastic, but they're heading in the right direction -- up -- which is a trend not reflected in UPN's national numbers.

All of which means the folks at WUTB will have something to celebrate tonight.

Stellar gospel show

Some of the biggest names in Gospel music, including Boyz II Men, Kirk Franklin and the Nu Nation, Dottie Peoples, Hezekiah Walker and the Williams Brothers, will be featured on Saturday's 11: 35 p.m. broadcast of the 14th annual Stellar Gospel Awards.

The two-hour broadcast, taped Jan. 9 in Atlanta, will air on WJZ, Channel 13, with a repeat airing scheduled for 12: 05 a.m. Sunday evening (early Monday morning).

Fred Hammond and New Radicals for Christ garnered the most Stellar nominations, with eight, followed by John P. Kee & the New Life Choir and Karen Clark-Sheard with six and CeCe Winans with five.

Singer Thomas Whitfield was voted the organization's James Cleveland Award.

Presenters for the show include several with decidedly local ties. They include Giancarlo Esposito, of "Homicide: Life On the Street," and S. Epatha Merkerson of "Law & Order," who owns a home in Mitchellville.

In other happenings at WJZ, the CBS affiliate is now going on the air half an hour earlier on weekdays.

Those unfortunate enough to be awake in the wee small hours of the morning will no longer have to wait until 5: 30 a.m. to begin their daily dose of Don Scott and Marty Bass.

On Monday, "Eyewitness News Rise & Shine" was expanded to one hour, beginning at 5 a.m. At 6 a.m., it's an hour of "Eyewitness News Morning Edition," followed by two hours during which Scott and Bass share the TV screen with "CBS This Morning."

WJZ's decision comes just one month after WBAL, Channel 11, announced a similar expansion to 5 a.m. The two stations are locked in a pitched battle for local ratings supremacy. WMAR, Channel 2, still begins its morning news broadcasts at 5: 30 a.m.

MPT wants filmmakers

MPT is looking for local filmmakers interested in having their work showcased on the "Independent Eye" series, which returns to the local airwaves in April.

Independent filmmakers, both new and established, are asked to send videotapes of their work, along with their name, address, telephone number and brief description of the work, to Zvi Shoubin, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills 21117.

April's debut of the six-part "Independent Eye" will mark the series' fifth year on MPT.

Ratings high for `Murder'

Sunday's broadcast of Gene Wilder's "Murder In a Small Town" may have received lukewarm critical praise, but it attracted enough viewers to become the second-highest-rated original film to air on A&E.

As A&E's first domestically produced film, it was seen in an estimated 3.4 million households. Only the BBC-produced "Pride and Prejudice," with 3.7 million households, was more widely viewed.

Changes at Jacor

Jacor Communications, whose Baltimore radio stations include WPOC-FM (93.1), WOCT-FM (104.3) and WCAO-AM (600), has announced a series of promotions and hirings.

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