KPLR shifts CW primetime to 8 p.m.

Tribune’s KPLR-TV in St. Louis is moving its half-hour 9 p.m. newscast to 7 p.m. and expanding it to a hour beginning on Sept. 8.

This means CW primetime fare currently airing at 7 p.m. is shifting to 8 p.m., with KPLR taking the Mountain Time feed. For example, when 90210 airs in St. Louis (8 p.m. Central), it’ll air at the exact same time in Denver (7 p.m. MT.)

According to KPLR GM Bill Lanesey, the move is being made for viewers who can’t get home to see local news on other stations at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. He points out their isn’t an option for younger viewers at 9 p.m., and CW programming fits the bill. Lanesey also says PUT (People Using Television) levels for the 18-34 target audience is five points higher at 9 p.m. than it is for 7 p.m.

The move is a win for KTVI as well, with the Local TV-owned Fox affiliate (and former Fox O&O and ABC affiliate) having the news competition to itself at 9 p.m.

This isn’t the first time a network affiliate shifted its prime-time programming to a later or earlier time to fit its’ market’s needs, but to mostly disastrous results.

In Indianapolis, WTHR-TV shifted its NBC prime-time programming to 7 p.m., Central Daylight Time from 8 p.m. in the summer of 1991 as an “early prime” experiment, but met with disastrous results, with the network version of The Cosby Show getting beat by Wheel of Fortune and the network version of Cheers on Thursday nights getting hammered by The Simpsons. It helps to note Indianapolis’ three other network affiliates kept its prime-time at 8 year-around, even though the market was on Eastern Standard Time half the year (today, Indianapolis is on Eastern Time year-around.)

In 1992, NBC affiliates KCRA-TV in Sacramento, KRON-TV in San Francisco, and KSBW-TV in Salinas/Monterey, Calif. all shifted their prime-time to 7 p.m., as did CBS affiliate KPIX-TV in San Francisco in order to move their late news to 10 p.m. and expand a hour. A year later, all three NBC affiliates went back to airing prime-time programs beginning at 8 p.m., while KPIX hung in there before moving its prime-time start back to 8 p.m. in 1998.

When KOVR-TV in Sacramento switched affiliation from ABC to CBS in 1995, it moved its prime-time start to 7 p.m., where it remains today (KXTV switched from CBS to ABC and retained the 8 p.m. start for ABC programming.)

More recently, KJZZ-TV in Salt Lake City shifted My Network TV programming to late-night hours (MNT programming now airs in pattern on KCSG-TV.)

As for KPLR, the newscasts are only airing weeknights at 7 p.m. The station does not plan to air any weekend newscasts.

KPLR is also revising its’ prime access lineup as well, with Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men swapping time slots to air at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively.

Thought: While KPLR moving the newscast to 7 p.m. is nice, you wonder how long this will last. Not because of ratings – but because ABC’s contract with its sadsack affiliate in St. Louis (Sinclair-owned KDNL-TV) reportedly comes up next year. With no local news operation at KDNL since 2001 (KDNL does not have a clause in its affiliation contract forcing it to put on local news), ABC would definitely give KPLR a look.

ABC has never really had good relations with KDNL or KTVI, and has tried to hook up with KPLR twice – once in 1988 and again in 1995, when then-owner of KTVI (New World) signed an affiliation deal with Fox with almost all of its stations, forcing ABC off KTVI and onto KDNL. What got in the way was Cardinals baseball – which KPLR held the rights to at the time.

With the Cardinals over-the-air broadcasts now on NBC affiliate KSDK-TV and CW struggling in the ratings, this is the perfect time for Sam Zell, Tribune, and KPLR to go after ABC. Look what the Tribsters recently did in San Diego. Make it happen, Mr. Zell. ABC deserves a strong station in St. Louis, while The CW deserves KDNL – after all, misery does loves company…

And don’t forget, beginning Sept. 8, KDNL is airing the new daytime version of Deal or No Deal at 10 p.m. – at night – featuring bonus material – five extra minutes worth of commercials.

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