NY1 News prides itself as a scrappy hustler in a market dominated by broadcast giants WNBC, WCBS and WABC (see Market Eye, p. 16). But now the cable network, owned by Time Warner Cable, is going head-to-head with its broadcast brethren in New York, the nation’s largest market.
On Jan. 22, the channel introduced the hyper-local News at Eleven, which Time Warner thinks can grab market share from the big stations, despite a relatively small 2.2 million subscriber base. (The cable channel is seen only in Time Warner households in New York City and New Jersey; the broadcast channels reach as many as 20 million viewers in a wider area.)
General Manager Steve Paulus believes News at Eleven can find a spot at the table. “As a veteran watcher of 11 p.m. news in New York, I tend to find a lot of it unwatchable,” he says, referring to the typical sweeps stunts and tie-ins with hit shows. “We’ll have more substance. Our promo could be 'If you care who got voted off Survivor, don’t watch NY1.’”
NY1 is positioning itself as an alternative to the usual newscast fare. Paulus, the former assistant news director at WCBS, sees Eleven as a low-risk venture. It’s produced with existing staffers, and Elizabeth Kaledin, co-anchor with Lewis Dodley, is the only new hire. She was with NY1 when it launched in 1992, then moved to CBS News, and is now returning to kick off the program. She says she’s excited to report on “'real’ local news again.”
The nightly program will concentrate on the channel’s staples: politics, business, weather, sports and news focused narrowly on local matters. While a newswheel format, featuring stories with little flow from one to the next, dominates the rest of the schedule, News at Eleven follows a traditional newscast format.
Much of the 30-minute show is pre recorded, with the anchors and reporters on hand for live reports should a water main break or a blizzard strike. “While it’s heretical in the broadcast world, if we don’t need to be live, we’ll pre record,” says Paulus. “When we need to do breaking news live, we’ll do it.”
NY1 is turning its attention to 11:00 as many viewers are tuning out. With shifts in how and when consumers get their news, late news is having a tough time. The November sweeps were particularly brutal in major markets, where 11 p.m. newscasts were down 10%-20%.
Working on a much smaller scale, NY1 isn’t bothered by that stat. The channel is strong in the morning, and, says Paulus, “If they like us in the mornings, we thought maybe they’d watch us in a traditional time period with a traditional format.”
Bruce Northcott, of research firm Crawford Johnson & Northcott, believes NY1 may have spotted an opportunity. “Maybe they see some unserved or underserved niche,” he says. “Maybe they believe the traditional newscasts are not reaching younger viewers.”
Paulus, who visited CES earlier this month with an eye to adding multi media components to News at Eleven, is confident that the newscast will hold its own. “I’m not saying we’ll beat the broadcasters,” he says, “but I think we’ll find an audience.”