ABC 7 , WCIU hook up for news

In a groundbreaking move for Chicago television, one local station is going to produce a newscast for another local station.

ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7) announced it has entered a partnership with Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU to produce a new hour-long 7 p.m. weeknight newscast effective January 12, 2015.

Anchoring the program is ABC 7 morning veteran Hosea Sanders, who is teaming up with Linda Yu (who’ll continue co-anchoring WLS’ 4 p.m. newscast.) Newly hired Cheryl Scott handles the weather, and Jim Rose does sports.

Weigel will sell advertising time on the newscasts; a portion of the revenue would go to WLS in a licensing agreement. The station hopes to attract more sponsors (and political ad dollars) who generally buy news programming.

While competing with prime-time fare on the broadcast networks (including ABC), WLS’ new primetime newscast will compete with WTTW’s public-affairs program Chicago Tonight and the Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor with host Bill O’Reilly. The 7 p.m. newscast – the first of its kind ever in Chicago – is intended to reach a new audience and viewers who are arriving at home from work (WFLD was the first to launch a 7 p.m. newscast, running from 1987-89.)

WLS-TV President and General Manager John Idler said the new newscast provides viewers with an alternative in the hour. Straight from the press release: “We are very excited about our partnership with WCIU, The U. It gives viewers a chance to watch Chicago’s #1 news at a new time and is a convenient option for those who want live, local news earlier in the evening.”

Bob Ramsey, who is executive vice president for WCIU parent Weigel Local Media said the following: “Adding local news to the schedule was a goal of ours. We are thrilled to partner with ABC 7 Eyewitness News, the market’s news leader, to provide this service to WCIU, The U’s viewers.”

On WCIU, the newscast has off-network reruns of Mike & Molly as a lead-in, and is replacing the long-in-the-tooth sitcom Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne.

Since converting to a general-market independent in 1995, WCIU has never done news (aside from Stock Market Observer and You and Me in the Morning), although sister stations in Milwaukee (CBS affiliate WDJT/Independent WMLW) and South Bend (ABC affiliate WBND) both have fully-staffed news operations.

WLS joins four other ABC-owned stations in producing prime-time newscasts for others. For example, KABC-TV in Los Angeles produces a newscast for independent KDOC-TV in nearby Anaheim, Calif., while KGO-TV in San Francisco produces one for independent KOFY.

Other Central/Mountain time zone markets with 7 p.m. newscasts include Tribune’s KPLR-TV in St. Louis and KWGN-TV in Denver – both who are CW affiliates who push their network programming back an hour.

This has been quite an eventful last few days for Chicago’s top-rated TV station. Not only ABC 7 snared Scott to join their weather team, but surprised everybody in the market by acquiring the rights to 25 Chicago Cubs baseball games.

(Edited on 2014-12-17 at 17:00 – added WFLD info.)