A.C. Nielsen and Arbitron's local returns are in for the May sweeps, and there are a couple of surprises among the usual results.

The biggest shocker was probably the early evening newscast numbers. One book puts it at a three-way tie between Channels 2, 4 and 5, while the other has a surprise winner. (Would you believe Ch. 4?)And KSTU-Ch. 13 has to be pleased with its 9 p.m. news numbers, which took a big jump from the February book.

As always, you have to take all the numbers with a grain of salt. There are the usual unexplained and unexplainable differences between Nielsen and Arbitron, as well as anomalies within each book that defy logic.

But here are a few highlights from the May sweeps.

EARLY NEWS: Who's No. 1 in this category? Well, according to Nielsen it's a three-way tie, with KTVX pulling a 9 at 5:30 p.m. and both KSL and KUTV garnering the same number at 6 p.m.

Arbitron, however, has a definite - if slight - winner. And, surprisingly, that winner is KTVX. Ch. 4 had a 9, while Ch. 5 had an 8 and Ch. 2 a 7.

This has to be the first time in decades that KTVX has outrated its competitors in the early evening newscasts. (However, it should be noted again that Ch. 4 does not go head-to-head against Ch. 2 and Ch. 4 in this category.)

9 O'CLOCK NEWS: There was a good bit of encouraging news for KSTU-Ch. 13 and its fledgling broadcast, while the KSL-produced broadcast on KXIV-Ch. 14 failed to make any progress.

The folks at Fox had to be discouraged by the February sweeps, when they pulled just 2 ratings and 4 shares in both books. But those numbers doubled or better in May.

Nielsen tallied a 5/9 for the Fox News at Nine, while Arbitron put that at 4/9. Still not spectacular, by any means, but a big improvement.

The Ch. 14 broadcast, meanwhile, is limping along with a 1 rating and a 2 share in both books, the same numbers it has received in the past. However, the folks at KSL say they're still making money on it.

LATE NEWS: It's a familiar story, with KSL a decided winner, KUTV second and KTVX third.

Ch. 4 did make quite a run of the race for second according to Nielsen, pulling within a single rating and share point of Ch. 2. The gap widens to 3 ratings point and six share points in the Arbitron book.

Actually, all three network affiliates took a bit of a hit in the 10 p.m. news numbers, losing audience to Utah's only major league sports franchise - the Jazz.

THE JAZZ: And speaking of the Jazz, they were even more successful on the tube than they were on the court in May.

For some of the playoff games, the ratings reached up into the mid-40s and the shares in the mid-50s.

That's incredible.

Not only did that put a dent in the 10 p.m. newscasts of the other stations (not to mention their prime time lineups), but it helped to lift the delayed Fox News broadcasts to unprecedented numbers - 6s and 7s.

DEMOGRAPHICS: The numbers discussed here have all been total households - the total number of people the ratings services say are watching a particular broadcast.

While they're important to TV watchers as an indication of who's No. 1, they're considerably less important to the stations themselves. They sell time based on demographics, which are specific segments of the population that advertisers want to reach.

To put it most simply, advertisers are interested in viewers aged 18-49. And looking at that group, the demographics often say something quite different than the household numbers.

For example, the late-night household numbers show KSL with a big lead, followed by second-place KUTV and third-place KTVX. But looking a the 18-49 age group in the Nielsen book, KSL has a 9 rating, KTVX a 7 and KUTV a 6. Pretty darn close.

On the other hand, although the three network affiliates tied in Nielsen with early news, that book showed both KSL and KUTV with 4 ratings among those 18-49, and KTVX with a 3.

The ratings books break down demographics for both males and females and for all sorts of age groups. It's this sort of thing that station sales staffs use when selling air time. And just looking at overall household ratings is confusing enough.

SIGN ON-SIGN OFF: For the first time in a while, KUTV won the sign-on-to-sign-off battle, which averages the ratings for the entire broadcast day, although Ch. 2 was in a virtual tie with Ch. 5 in Arbitron.

KUTV averaged a 6/22 in Nielsen and a 5/20 in Arbitron; KSL a 5/19 in both books; KTVX a 5/19 and 4/19; KSTU a 4/15 and 4/17; and KXIV a 1/3 in both books.

OTHER NOTES: "Regis & Kathie Lee" now wins its 9 a.m. time slot in both books.

- "Oprah Winfrey" regained its lead over "Days of Our Lives" in Nielsen; the two tied in Arbitron.

- "Maury Povich," which Ch. 2 was forced to move to 11 a.m. by a syndicator, was winning the 3 p.m. time in both books. (It tied "Geraldo" in Arbitron.)

- "Donahue" remains a big winner in households at 4 p.m., but "Montel Williams" did show some improvement over February.

- "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" continue to lead at 6 and 6:30 p.m.

- Surprisingly, "The Tonight Show" didn't do overly well, despite the fact that May marked Johnny Carson's last month. "M.A.S.H." still won the 10:35 p.m. time slot in both books, with "Tonight" tied for second with "Night Court." That's an improvement but not what KUTV expected.

- And "Murphy Brown" won big - real big - over its competition on Monday nights.


(Additional information)

Nielsen new ratings


6 a.m. 4/41 2/19 -- -- --

Noon 5/25 -- 4/20 -- --

5 p.m. 7/22 -- -- -- --

5:30 -- 9/23 -- -- --

6 p.m. 9/19 -- 9/19 -- --

6:30 p.m. -- -- 6/13 -- --

9 p.m. -- -- -- 5/9 1/2

10 p.m. 12/20 11/19 17/29 -- --

Arbitron news ratings

6 a.m. 3/36 1/16 -- -- --

Noon 5/26 -- 4/22 -- --

5 p.m. 5/16 -- -- -- --

5:30 p.m. -- 9/28 -- -- --

6 p.m. 7/16 -- 8/19 -- --

6:30 p.m. -- -- 6/15 -- --

9 p.m. -- -- -- 4/9 1/2

10 p.m. 11/19 8/13 18/31 -- --

NOTE: The numbers listed are for total households, and are listed rating points/share points