In a sweeps period in which Mother Nature dished up more sensational stories than television news investigative teams could ferret out on their own, KNBC (Channel 4) slipped in many ratings periods while KABC (Channel 7) clung to its dominance in local television news.

But the big story in the February sweeps period was the shift taking place in the morning, where KTLA (Channel 5) surged past KABC in ratings and Fox finally pulled the plug on the national edition of its lighter offering, "Good Day L.A."

That show, which originates at KTTV (Channel 11), is a frothy mix of news, antics and entertainment gossip that held relatively steady locally in its 7-8:30 a.m. slot, trailing KTLA's morning newscast.

The national spinoff, "Good Day Live," failed to gain traction in the more than 160 markets in which Fox, a unit of media giant News Corp., attempted to replicate the formula of news, entertainment and lifestyle tips. It is scheduled to end its four-year run on March 18.

KTTV, however, reaffirmed its commitment to the local version. The station said that "Good Day L.A." drew more demographically desirable viewers people aged 18 to 49 than rival programs.

KABC led in the early 5 a.m. slot with its "Eyewitness News," which garnered a 1.7 rating, equivalent to 90,000 households, according to Nielsen Media Research. KNBC followed with a 1.4 rating.

KABC again led in the 6 a.m. window with a 3.2 rating, followed by KTTV's "Fox 11 News" and KNBC's "Today in L.A." and KTLA's "KTLA News Early Edition," both with 2.4 ratings.

In the more-watched 7-8:30 a.m. segment, KTLA outpaced KABC with a 3.4 rating. KTTV's "Good Day L.A." followed with a 2.9 rating, closely followed by NBC's "Today Show" on KNBC. KCBS's airing of CBS's "Early Show" was the lowest-rated morning news program with a 0.7 rating.

KTLA lagged behind KABC in morning news ratings during the February 2004 sweeps, but gained market share this year to overtake KABC during the 7-8:30 a.m. time slot.

The February sweeps period which ran from Feb. 5 to March 3 featured few of the ratings-grabbing special reports that were a staple of sweeps broadcasts until last year. Instead, the period coincided with severe storms and mudslides and the run-up to the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.

Vinnie Malcolm, vice president and general manager at Tribune Co.-owned KTLA, said the station redesigned its broadcast set with bolder visuals and has redoubled its focus on local news emphasizing the region's diversity.

"By and large, every day we're going to give you L.A.," Malcolm said.

Last November, Nielsen replaced written viewership diaries with electronic People Meters in the Los Angeles market a change expected to diminish the importance of the twice-annual sweeps periods.

The February sweeps period was the first in which the People Meters were in use, and Sue Johenning, executive vice president of the ad-buying firm Initiative in Los Angeles, said their advent is pressuring stations to improve ratings year-round.

Bob Long, senior vice president and news director at KNBC, said that while his station lost ground in the morning news ratings, he was unlikely to make any changes.

"If you do a good show, people will watch," he said. "People Meters are interesting, but I'm a journalist, not a salesman or a ratings expert."

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