AIR CHECK BY DIANA MARSZALEK

Scripps Puts WMYD To Work Airing News

The Detroit MyNetwork affiliate, which Scripps bought from Granite earlier this year, has launched a 10 p.m. newscast that goes head-to-head with Fox O&O WJBK, and plans to debut a local morning show later this summer.  "We are providing people with choice," says GM Ed Fernandez.

Early thisyear, Scripps purchased WMYD Detroit from Granite Broadcasting as a companion to its ABC affiliate WXYZ in the 11th largest market. This summer, it is putting the station to work.

On June 16, Scripps launched a 10 p.m. newscast on WMYD, putting it in head-to-head competition with Fox O&O WJBK.

“Fox has had 10 p.m. local news all to themselves,” GM Ed Fernandez says. “We are providing people with choice.”

Next up is launching a two-hour WMYD morning show in August, which will basically pick up where WXYZ leaves off at 7 a.m. when Good Morning America takes over. The 7-8 o’clock hour will feature hard news, but the show will be a little softer by the time its second hour rolls around, Fernandez says.

The show will feature the same anchors who are on WXYZ in the mornings,Vic Faust and Alicia Smith. The WMYD morning show also will compete with WJBK, which produces the only other local morning show at that time.

Under Granite, WMYD aired a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast out of Fort Wayne, Ind., but it was so poorly rated that, for many, WJBK was long considered the only local news player at that time, market watchers say.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Fernandez says his new newscast, however, aims to be a viable alternative, one that capitalizes on the WXYZ 7 Action News resources and brand (so much so that it’s called 7 Action News at 10 p.m. on 20).  The WMYD 10 p.m. news airs some of the same stories that WXYZ will air at, say, 6 or 11 p.m., and is anchored by Glenda Lewis and Malcolm Maddox, both familiar WXYZ faces.

But it’s not the same show, Fernandez says. It features some of the non-traditional elements – a faster pace, a standup anchor – that are becoming increasingly popular. The hour-long format also enables the station to air stories that don’t make the cut on WXYZ’s regular half-hour newscasts.

According to Fernandez, Scripps’ plan for Detroit also calls for WXYZ to air two Scripps-produced shows, The Now and The List, starting in September.  The Now is a newsy afternoon talk show with breaking news, viral videos, local hosts and a national host in Denver. The List, which will air at 7:30 p.m., is more of a news magazine. Both will make room for locally produced segments.

Scripps is building its Detroit staff, which will grow to about 250 employees this fall from the current 190 or so, according to a company rep. Fernandez says up to 15 of those new hires will be part of the stations’ news team, which he says “is substantial given this day and age of just kind of squeezing more blood out of the turnip.”

“We want to win but we want to do it properly,” he says.

The other new hires will work in everything from sales to digital, and includes employees who used to work for Granite, the Scripps spokeswoman says.

Whether viewers will respond, however, is another question, as WXYZ’s evening and latenight newscasts currently rank third in the market (CBS O&O WWJ doesn’t produce news), to say nothing of WMYD being known for entertainment rather than information.

“There are some very strong news brands in Detroit, and it’s very difficult to break through,” says WJBK GM Mike Renda. “It’s not impossible. But it’s very hard.”

According to ratings provided by WDIV, Post-Newsweek’s NBC affiliate, WXYZ’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts have lost their edge with adults 25-54.  The last time those newscasts rated No. 1 in that demo in the May sweeps was in 2012.

This past May, WDIV was first at 6 p.m. with a 3.3 rating, versus WJBK’s 2.8 and WXYZ’s 2.7. WDIV also won at 11 p.m., when it earned a 3.9 rating. WJBK, which does an 11 o’clock newscast on top of its 10 o’clock show, rated second with a 2.9 and WXYZ third with a 2.6.

In addition, ratings provided by Fox show WJBK does well with its 10 p.m. newscast, which earned a 4.8 rating in May.  In its first month on air, 7 Action News at 10 p.m. on 20 had a 0.4 rating with adults 25-54. WJBK’s newscast earned a 3.7 rating during that same period of time, the ratings show.

WDIV GM Marla Drutz credits her station’s rise to a number of factors, including repositioning itself as a Detroit TV station during the city’s darkest days.

“We never ignored the fact we were in Detroit, but we talked about it as ‘Metro Detroit,’” Drutz says, adding that WDIV is the only local broadcaster with a downtown facility. “There is no shame in the word Detroit as far as we’re concerned.”

The station also benefits from a strong afternoon lineup, as well as airing a “promotable” special report in every 11 p.m. newscast, she says.

Now that the Detroit Free Press is available for delivery just three days a week, consumers are more likely to turn to TV for local news, Drutz adds. In addition, Detroit being a shift town makes airing news at non-traditional hours a better bet than usual, as workers want it available when they come and go.

 “It’s just a town that really likes television,” she says. “You can draw all kinds of conclusions. But I like to think that the reason why they like television is because it serves them really well.”


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