Baltimore's two strongest television stations, WBAL and WJZ, continued their neck-and-neck race for ratings dominance in the sweeps period that ended this week, and neither could claim a towering victory.
WBAL, the NBC affiliate on Channel 11, could boast of the largest share of the audience for its 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news slots - which it has led for 10 consecutive ratings periods - as well as for both its morning and 6 p.m. newscasts on weekends, according to figures provided by the station and compiled by ACNielsen, a national market research firm.
By a hair, Channel 11 was the most watched station in Baltimore, with a 5.16 rating over an average 24-hour period, a fraction ahead of WJZ's 5.14.
But WJZ, Channel 13, helped by its affiliation with CBS and its powerful primetime schedule, led the numbers in the evenings overall. WJZ provided six of the top 10 primetime shows in Baltimore, a press release from the station said. In the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot, WJZ had a 10.4 rating - equal to about 107,000 households - while WBAL came in with 8.2, or roughly 85,000 homes. WMAR, the ABC affiliate, had a 6.9 rating, while Fox's WBFF trailed at 4.3.
WJZ also led in its weekday newscasts in early morning, before switching to the network's feed of The Early Show. The station said its morning news broadcast delivers the fourth-highest ratings of any station in the nation's top 25 markets. Once the networks take over, however, NBC's Today show prevails on WBAL.
In addition, WJZ dominated the standings for its noon newscast, which has The Price Is Right as a lead-in and is followed by the perennially popular soap The Young and the Restless. The newscast had a 6.5 rating, or almost 70,000 homes, a larger audience in the slot than that of WBAL and WMAR combined.
WJZ also carried a predominant share of the audience whenever it showed Ravens football games.
The sweeps periods, which last 28 days, are crucial for television stations, which use the numbers to set advertising rates. Baltimore has six ratings periods, in January, February, May, July, October and November. The May sweeps are considered the most crucial, followed by November and February.
WBAL benefited enormously from its daily airing of Oprah, whose host, ironically, was once an anchor on WJZ. Winfrey's hourlong talk show at 4 p.m. had a bigger audience - about 109,000 homes, on average - than any news show on any of the other three Baltimore stations that have news programs - WJZ, WMAR and WBFF.
Only WBAL's 11 p.m. newscast had more viewers than Winfrey, according to the Nielsen figures, and showed audience gains of 6 percent over the past year. Since November 2004, WMAR's 11 p.m. news program dropped 11 percent, while WJZ's is down 6 percent.
In late night, WBAL has the region's top three programs, The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live and Inside Edition Weekend.