Chicago stations to expand afternoon newscasts

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Early fringe newscasts at WMAQ, WFLD on tap

Like it or not Chicagoans, get ready for more newscasts in the afternoon.

As first reported by Robert Feder Monday, NBC-owned WMAQ is expected to launch a 4 p.m. newscast later this summer. WMAQ would compete with WLS-TV and WGN-TV in the time slot, with each station having a newscast at in the time slot since 1984 and 2014, respectively.

Other NBC-owned stations have or are planning to launch 4 p.m. newscasts this spring. In New York, WNBC has hired morning news anchor Stefan Holt away from sister station WMAQ to anchor its 4 p.m. newscast, set to begin in a few weeks. In Los Angeles, KNBC is set to return to the 4 p.m. news game for the first time since 2007.

Meanwhile, Feder is also reporting that Fox-owned WFLD is finalizing plans to launch a 5 p.m. newscast this summer in a long-overdue move.

WFLD is currently the only Fox-owned station (not including My Network TV affiliates) left not producing an early afternoon newscast. Coinciding with the arrival of new news director Matt Piacente, insiders say the new 5 p.m. newscasts are to be anchored by the current 9 p.m. anchorteam of Jeff Herndon and Dawn Hasbrouck. Earlier this year, WFLD added Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts.

The addition continues a trend of stations nationwide adding more local news to their programming schedules instead of syndicated shows. So far, only one new syndicated show is debuting this fall: Harry Connick Jr.s’, whose show has been picked up by WFLD this fall in an overall Fox O&O deal and could lead into the station’s 5 p.m. newscast.

Currently, WFLD airs syndicated celebrity magazine shows TMZ and Dish Nation occupy the 5-6 p.m.time slot, one of many multiple runs throughout the day.

The newscast expansion means some programming shuffles: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is expected to make a deal with WFLD to acquire celeb magazine show Extra from WMAQ to air in prime access (6-7 p.m.), likely being paired with Warner’s TMZ. Extra has been on WMAQ throughout its entire 22-year run, with the show airing in early fringe since 1996.

Extra remains on NBC’s seven other stations, including WNBC and KNBC. NBC was the launch group when Extra debuted in 1994. (NBC-owned WRC in Washington D.C. and KNSD in San Diego do not carry Extra.)

This latest round of news expansion has nothing to do with audience demand, as you’ve guessed given the complaints of repetitive news stories throughout the day. Instead, the demand is being driven by advertisers, notably from automotive and political – especially with one of the biggest elections in a generation coming up.

So if you’re mad about local news expansion uprooting your favorite TV show, thank your incompetent politicians, the nerdy guy in those Hyundai commercials and Flo from Progressive. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

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