The Early News Gets a Little Bit Earlier
Who’s up at 4:30? Enough folks to make a newscast work
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/3/2010 5:45:00 AM
Station executives offer many reasons why more people are watching news in the wee hours, including longer commutes, the nonstop news cycle driven by cable and the Web, and the decreased presence of newspapers. There’s also the increasingly global economy to service. “People here have jobs that are attached to time zones all over the planet,” says KUSA Denver VP of News Patti Dennis, who launches a 4:30 in June.
Others with 4:30 newscasts include WPIX New York, the StationtoStation majority of the Fox-owned stations, and six of NBC’s 10 O&Os.
Initial expectations are modest, though general managers are encouraged by early returns. WPTV West Palm Beach averages a 2.0 household rating/9 share at 4:30, good for about 15,000 households. WTVT Tampa’s 4:30 program showed a year-over-year 133% ratings improvement over its 4:30 predecessor, TMZ. WNBC averages 41,000 viewers since launching its 4:30 news March 1. VP of News Susan Sullivan says it offers a quick headlines recap for busy viewers. “It helps you not look like a fool later on at the water cooler,” she says.
Ad rates aren’t princely pre-dawn. One market leader says 4:30 rates are 10%-15% of what the station gets for late news. A leading station in New York or Los Angeles might get $3,000 for a 30-second spot; everyone else, considerably less.
But advertiser interest is growing. “The 5 a.m. advertisers are taking a hard look at 4:30,” says WTVT VP/General Manager Bill Schneider. “The ratings aren’t something you can overlook.”
Around 60% of stations are expected to keep staffing levels flat in 2010, and even the breezy nature of a 4:30 newscast involves asking more of maxed-out staffers. “It’s fair to say people weren’t jumping up and down [when the station launched a 4:30 in January],” says WPTV VP/General Manager Steve Wasserman. “But what’s great about this crew is that they’re so dedicated to the cause.”
If a 4:30 a.m. local news was once unthinkable, can a 4 a.m. news be that far off? Perhaps not. “It depends on the feedback we get from viewers,” says Schneider. “If it’s something they see as important, we’ll certainly consider it.”
Some TV station all already starting their morning newscasts a 4:00am. KRON-TV 4 in San Francisco, WKRN, WSMV, and WTVF-TV in Nashville, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas and KRIV-TV in Houston all start their morning newscasts at 4:00am
Jeremy - 5/27/2010 6:05:08 PM EDT
Speaking about Boston, I expect that WCVB, WHDH and WFXT will also add a half-hour of early-morning local news from 4:30-5 A.M. weekdays, and very soon.
I wouldn't even be surprised if one or more of these stations tries to "take the plunge" before the end of this week (May 5th-7th) to beat WBZ to the punch.
BTW, Boston was the first market with an extended early-morning local TV newscast when WCVB back in 1973 launched an hour newscast weekday mornings from 6 to 7 A.M. In the 1980's, WCVB was also first in the country to go to a 90-minute (5:30-7) and eventually two hour (5-7 A.M.) local early-morning newscast.
Joseph - 5/4/2010 2:44:44 PM EDT
Brad - 5/4/2010 5:40:38 AM EDT
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