With the upcoming departure of the latenight syndicated talk show, at least five Tribune Broadcasting stations will fill the 11 p.m. slot with local news, and more may follow. It’s also an opportunity to experiment with formats in the hopes of winning over younger viewers, says new Tribune news chief Katherine Green.
Arsenio’s Loss Is Tribune News Viewers’ Gain
Arsenio’s Loss Is News Viewers’ Gain
With the upcoming departure of the latenight syndicated talk show, many stations, including a number owned by Tribune Broadcasting, will fill the 11 p.m. slot with more local news. It’s also an opportunity to experiment with formats in the hopes of winning over younger viewers.
After some heady early numbers, the ratings of the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show drooped and the talk show soon became an after-thought in the latenight talk wars. The word came down in late May that Arsenio would not be back for a second season.
That left Tribune, a partner in the show with CBS Television Distribution, with a whole lot of stations with 11 o’clock time slots to fill.
Part of the solution is more news, according to Katherine Green, who joined Tribune as SVP of News in May. At least five of Tribune’s 39 news-producing stations will be adding news at 11, part of a larger expansion of news at the nation’s sixth largest TV station group.
KTLA Los Angeles launched a one-hour newscast, an expansion of its existing 10 p.m. news, on June 16.
On June 30, WXIN Indianapolis debuted NewsPoint, a half-hour 11 p.m. broadcast with nontraditional elements like an anchor standing in front of big screens and weather in the first 15 minutes. The Fox affiliate will also add 7 p.m. news this fall.
KCPQ Seattle will introduce an 11 o’clock newscast on top of its 10 o’clock news on Aug. 17. Green is mum about what KCPQ has planned for the 11 o’clock program, including whether the newscast will run a full hour.
Two others stations will launch 11 p.m. newscasts this quarter, Green says, declining to identify them prior to the formal announcements. “I think there are other stations that will follow suit in the next six to nine months,” Green says.
It’s not just latenight that is getting newsier at Tribune. Green says there is no group mandate that stations add news, but there “certainly is a request” that they meet viewer demand. “We are seeing audiences coming back to news programming, so we want to deliver in the dayparts when there is an appetite for news,” she says.
WGNT, the CW affiliate in Norfolk, Va., added news at 7 p.m. last Thursday; Flagship WGN Chicago in September will expand its evening news by an hour, so it runs from 4 to 6 p.m. versus starting at 5.
And one other station is schedule to offer more news other than at 11 this quarter, Green says.
The cancellation of Arsenio is the big news driver. It provided an opportunity for stations to start competing against Big Three O&Os and affiliates at 11 o’clock, Green says.
But Tribune will not be turning to news as a replacement everywhere, she says. WPIX, the CW affiliate in New York, for example, put Seinfeld on at 11 p.m. after moving Arsenio to 11:30, and is still weighing options for what to replace that show with when it goes off-air.
Katz Television Group’s Bill Carroll says he believes the stations replacing Arsenio with news will be the exceptions, not the rule. He says most Arsenio stations “are more likely to roll out sitcoms especially since there are so many that are going to be available in the fall.” Mike and Molly, Anger Management and Cougar Town are among the shows that will debut in syndication.
A lot of those stations bumped sitcoms to make room for Arsenio in the first place, he says.
Green says Tribune stations weigh a number of market-specific factors when deciding whether — or when — to add news.
In Los Angeles., for instance, it “made sense” for KTLA to expand its existing newscast at 11 p.m. because it already has “a very strong 10 o’clock hour.”
In the May sweeps, KTLA finished behind both Fox-owned stations in Los Angeles, KTTV and KCAL, in the news ratings race at 10. Only a few thousands viewers separated it from second place, however.
Los Angles was one of only three top-10 markets where news viewing rose in May 2014 compared to May 2013, according to a TVNewsCheck analysis of the Nielsen ratings.
In Indianapolis, the opening at 11 p.m. provided the chance for WXIN to develop an alternative to the existing, traditional latenight newscasts, Green says. The station hired Nicole Pence, formerly of Dispatch-owned NBC affiliate WTHR, to solo-anchor the show, which, without an anchor desk, has a younger, more free-flowing vibe than conventional news.
NewsFix airs on KIAH Houston and KDAF Dallas; Eye Opener also airs in the two Texas markets as well as on WPHL Philadelphia, WSFL Miami and KRCW Portland, Ore.
Green says those shows reflect Tribune’s desire to reach people who don’t watch traditional local TV news. Green was reluctant to pinpoint the demographics she is after, but conceded that millennials “do fit the bill.
“There is no doubt that there is viewer fatigue with some of the traditional news presentations,” Green says. “So these expansions are an opportunity to try some different presentations that might appeal to different audiences in different dayparts.”
Which doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
“Eleven p.m. is hugely competitive and dominated by the ABC, CBS and NBC O&O’s,” says Michael Schneider, TV Guide’s L.A.-based executive editor.
That KCOP Los Angeles, the Fox-owned MyNetworkTV affil, canceled its 11 p.m. news last year after an 11-year run exemplifies how tough it is, he says. The station now runs King of Queens at that time. Fox O&O KTTV still airs news at 10.
Schneider says KTLA’s new latenight newscast “seems like a temporary solution now that Arsenio has been canceled.”
“Tribune seems to be constantly adding new newscasts to its stations, but my question is always the same: is it investing more in staffers — reporters, editors, etc. — to fill that expanded time?”
Green says Tribune will, in fact, be doing so in markets where its stations expand news. “There are going to be some key hires,” she says.
Although she wouldn’t elaborate, Green says the plan includes adding newspeople skilled in enterprise reporting. Tribune will be looking at in-market talent — that is, other stations’ talent – to fill those jobs, she says.
“Above all I still believe in journalism, and one of the things that journalism does is expose and identify [issues],” she says. “Those are the things that bring the stories that are not on everybody else’s air.”