When 'Oprah' goes, WLS Chicago will go local


Syndication execs have been saying all along that some ABC-owned stations would replace Oprah in select markets with local offerings, but Robert Feder today reports some of the first details about what those plans might look like. According to Emily Barr, president and general manager of ABC-owned WLS Chicago (who is traveling today and tough to reach), the station will try a live, local show in the 9 a.m. time slot. Barr created a three-minute demo tape with the working title of Morning Rush to show her bosses and got the go-ahead to develop the show, which will be shot in front of a studio audience, according to Feder.

It sounds like the show is still very much in development, however, with no hosts, set or final name yet.

ABC stations in several markets – and particularly New York and Chicago – have been expected to turn to less expensive local programming to fill the Oprah time slots, although most have thought those programs would come in the form of news expansions. News or no, the ABC stations are in some of the best positions in the country to try their hands at local programming because their newscasts are typically the top-rated in their markets. And many TV stations have been turning toward local programming to create unique brands that are differentiated from cable.

ABC did purchase a syndicated show, Sony’s Dr. Oz, in one market, Los Angeles. There KABC already has enough local news and programming and Oprah airs at 3 p.m., leading into local news at 4 p.m.

Although Oprah is shot live to tape, the show had something of a (highly produced) live feel. Syndicators and stations have shown an interest in live programming lately, with NBC and Fox stations testing a live version of NBC Universal’s syndicated Access Hollywood this fall, and NBC stations in New York and Washington, D.C., running a live local show, Daily Connection.