Report: Mark Suppelsa headed to WGN-TV

Mark Suppelsa, the anchor who left Fox-owned WFLD-TV last March, is rumored to join Tribune’s WGN-TV later this summer, replacing Steve Sanders alongside Allison Payne on the station’s 9 p.m. newscast.

Suppelsa is technically still under contract to WFLD – the station has a right to match any offer a competitor offers until June 17. WGN is likely to make an offer after the date. For now, Suppelsa is doing news for WTMX-FM’s Eric & Kathy Show.

The person Mark Suppelsa would be replacing is longtime anchor Steve Sanders, who could stay with the station in a high-profile role.

WGN’s 5 p.m. news plans

WGN is also considering using Suppelsa as an anchor for its new 5 p.m. newscast it plans to launch this summer. No word on a start date or the length, but the newscast would replace syndicated reruns of My Wife & Kids (which moves to WCIU-TV in 2009) and/or According to Jim. WGN would become the first CW affiliate in a major market to launch an early-evening newscast.

The news expansion comes as stations are finding it difficult to fill early fringe and prime access time slots with off-network sitcoms since those type of programs have been replaced on the networks over the years with more dramas and reality fare. In the past, WGN has filled the early-evening time slot with reruns of everything from The Muppet Show to Charles in Charge to Full House.

And WGN isn’t alone in trying to capture more news viewers. Raycom’s WXIX-TV, a Fox affiliate in Cincinnati, is launching a 6:30 p.m. newscast in August not only because of the lack of proven programming in the marketplace – but also because of changing lifestyles. The new local newscast would take on the three network news shows in the slot. Like WGN’s planned newscast, WXIX’s show is going to be surrounded by sitcoms.

Trivia: The “XIX” in WXIX is the roman numeral for nineteen – the channel number WXIX is on in Cincinnati. It was also the average age of the solider in the Vietnam war, as described in Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 dance hit “19”.