WLS-TV jumps into the 4:30 a.m. news derby

Remember when yours truly said an expansion for local news at 4:30 a.m. was inevitable in the Chicago market?

Well, the race to have the first newscast of the day is getting awfully crowded.

Just two weeks after Tribune’s WGN-TV announced it was expanding its morning newscast to 4:30 a.m. on August 16, ABC-owned WLS-TV announced yesterday it was expanding its morning newscast to 4:30 a.m.and beating WGN to the punch by starting the newscast two weeks earlier. Judy Hsu and Hosea Sanders, who anchor the 5-7 a.m. news at WLS will add the 4:30 newscast to their duties as well.

The news was first reported by Robert Feder at Vocalo Monday afternoon.

In addition, WLS is also expanding its Saturday morning news show to 8 a.m., displacing an hour of children’s programming. Stacey Baca will front the 8 a.m. show, in addition to the 6 a.m. show she already anchors.

Recently, WGN’s sister station in New York (WPIX) announced it was expanding its morning show to 4 a.m. effective September 20.

The moves are being made to take advantage of the incresing HUT levels in the hour when more and more viewers are waking up earlier to go to work. Plus, stations can earn extra revenue from the newscasts and should get help this year from a strong election season.

Both WLS and WGN join WMAQ-TV in the 4:30 a.m. news derby, which was the first station to launch a traditional local newscast in the time slot in January 2007 (beforehand, WMAQ aired Barely Today, an off-beat news show with Bruce Wolf.)

No word on when or if CBS-owned WBBM-TV or Fox-owned WFLD-TV will join the extra-early dawn patrol party, but they have to sooner or later.