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'Dr. Phil' aids WTSP-Ch. 10 in sweeps

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times Television Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 23, 2003

Call it the "Dr. Phil effect."

It's what happens when the popular psychologist's TV talk show airs at 5 p.m., knocking out competitors in the local news race.

According to figures on total household viewership released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research, Dr. Phil scored top ratings at 5 p.m. for WTSP-Ch. 10 during May's sweeps ratings period, followed by newscasts on WTVT-Ch. 13, WFLA-Ch. 8 and WFTS-Ch. 28.

Viewers for WFLA's 4 p.m. Oprah broadcast - the show where Dr. Phil McGraw got his start - seem to be heading over to Dr. Phil, depressing WFLA's 5 p.m. ratings and allowing WTVT to emerge as the top-rated 5 p.m. newscast. WTSP's 6 p.m. rating has also grown slightly, pushing it past WTVT to second place in that time period, behind WFLA.

"There's a halo effect to Dr. Phil," said Pete Nikiel, director of marketing and promotion for WTSP. "It was pretty much what we hoped for."

An executive at fourth-place WFTS - which revamped its 5 p.m. newscast into an hourlong show in April, hiring Philadelphia anchor Ren Scott as co-anchor - also blamed Dr. Phil for a 40 percent dip in 5 p.m. viewership from last year.

Fox juggernaut American Idol's Wednesday finale was the most-watched nonsports program in the Tampa Bay area, attracting 436,000 households or 33 percent of those watching TV.

Nationally, American Idol's finale attracted 38.1-million viewers in its final hour, emerging as the second most-watched entertainment show of the year and the second most-watched entertainment show in Fox history, behind Joe Millionaire's finale.

CBS earned the most total viewers in May, while Fox attracted the most viewers aged 18 to 49 - the demographic advertisers want most.

Demographic information on the age and gender of Tampa Bay area viewers - which TV stations use to set advertising rates - are expected June 6.

From sign-on to sign-off, WFLA emerged as the top-rated station, with a 5.3 rating (percentage of households with TVs) and 12 share (percentage of households with TVs turned on). WTSP came in second (4.5 rating/10 share) followed by WTVT (4.1/9), WFTS (2.3/5) and WTOG-Ch. 44 (2.0/5).

The most popular primetime shows in the Tampa Bay area during May's sweeps (excluding figures from Wednesday night), were CSI, Friends, ER, Law & Order and American Idol.

WTSP and the St. Petersburg Times share news and features under a partnership agreement.

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