ABC 7 tries to fight back at sweeps’ end

ABC 7's Mark Giangreco, Cheryl Burton, Ron Magers, Kathy Brock and Jerry Taft

ABC 7’s Mark Giangreco, Cheryl Burton, Ron Magers, Kathy Brock and Jerry Taft

In a last-ditch effort to stave off defeat in the May sweeps, perennial market leader WLS-Channel 7 is pulling out all the stops — and some of the commercials — from its 10 p.m. Monday through Friday newscast.

On Monday and Tuesday night, the ABC-owned station dropped two commercial breaks from its late news, postponing its first interruption until 10:21 p.m. It’s a maneuver designed to retain audience ratings by discouraging viewers from channel surfing.

WMAQ-Channel 5, which has used the ploy in the past, responded by dropping its commercial breaks until 10:22 p.m. Tuesday. The NBC-owned station is poised to overtake ABC 7 among viewers between 25 and 54 — a key demographic driving advertising revenue.

The move does not appear to have benefitted ABC 7 after all. As of Wednesday, NBC 5 continues to lead at 10 p.m. with a 3.6 percent share of the 25-to-54 audience over ABC 7’s 3.4 share. Both stations are up compared with last May, but NBC 5 gained more ground.

As measured by Nielsen Co., the May sweeps began April 23 and end Wednesday night.