KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Burbank claimed victory in the local television news race during the May sweeps, but rival KABC-TV Channel 7 continues to dog its heels.

KNBC won the news race in the morning, in addition to the critical time slots of 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. KABC, meanwhile, had the top-rated newscast at mid-day, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

In the horse race between KABC and KNBC, the two stations have frequently traded the top spot at various time slots during major sweeps periods. KNBC gets the bragging rights this May because 11 p.m. and 5 p.m. are the two most lucrative time slots, in terms of the amount of money TV stations charge to advertisers per rating point.

KABC has launched several new initiatives since the arrival of General Manager Arnold Kleiner in February 1996. In addition to hiring a new advertising agency last fall, it has added a lifestyles feature during the 4 p.m. broadcast and a viewer phone-in forum that ran during the May sweeps.

Kleiner said the changes have nothing to do with the station's new ownership. Walt Disney Co. took over KABC after buying Capital Cities/ABC Inc. last year.

"(Disney) is a huge company," Kleiner said. "They're worried about a lot more than Channel 7 in Los Angeles. We have never received a phone call from them asking, 'Why did you do this?'"

Another station with new management is KCBS-TV Channel 2, where John Culliton took control last July. Under Culliton, the news broadcast at KCBS has incorporated a good-news segment called "What's Right with Southern California" and, during the May sweeps, a series of investigative reports called "Special Assignment."

Nonetheless, KCBS's news ratings were fairly flat compared with last year's May sweeps, and it made little headway against its rivals. Culliton points out that KCBS made the biggest improvement of the three local major network stations from their performance in the February sweeps.

"We're really not a traditional third-place television station," Culliton said. "We're a station that has the potential at any time to climb to the top."

At KTLA-TV Channel 5, the sweeps brought another painful loss. KTLA's 10 p.m. newscast underwent major changes during the May sweeps to reverse a ratings slide that began last year when KTTV-TV Channel 11 took the May ratings crown at 10 for the first time.

This year, KTTV once again attracted more viewers to its nightly news, pulling down a 5.4 rating/9 share compared to KTLA's 4.7 rating/8 share Monday through Friday. The ratings figure represents the percentage of TV-owning households in a market that have their sets tuned to the station, while the share figure represents the percentage of the current viewing audience it has attracted.

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