On the coattails of a giant lead-in for the season premiere of ABC's "Lost," WLS-Channel 7 won the ratings Tuesday night for its coverage of the Illinois primary. But the big surprise was the close second-place finish for WBBM-Channel 2, which opted out of extended coverage and stuck with its regular news format at 10 p.m. What seemed like a shameful abrogation of Channel 2's duty appears in hindsight to have been a calculated business decision that paid off.
From 10 to 10:30 p.m., when all five major players competed head-to-head, Channel 7 was the front-runner with a 9.5 rating, followed by Channel 2 with an 8.2, WMAQ-Channel 5 with a 5.3, WGN-Channel 9 with a 4.9, and WFLD-Channel 32 with a 3.4. (One Nielsen ratings point represents about 35,000 households.)
Channel 2 no doubt was helped by the strength of CBS' "The Good Wife," but the relatively low news numbers across the board reflected widespread apathy over an election in which three out of four eligible voters stayed home. Channel 5 preempted NBC's lame-duck "Jay Leno Show" slot to begin continuous coverage at 9 p.m. -- matching the start times of Channel 9 (which aired its first two hours of coverage anchored by WGN's Mark Suppelsa and Micah Materre on CLTV) and Channel 32. Election night notes: