WBBM-TV plans newscast overhaul

CBS O&O WBBM-TV plans to overhaul its news operation. Again.

According to this article at B&C
, WBBM General manager Bruno Cohen plans to once again remake the station’s newscasts, which ratingswise, lag behind others in the market.

Cohen, who came from sister station KOVR-TV in Sacramento, said the station is underperforming in many time slots. Despite the fact the station airs nationally top-rated syndicated and network fare, WBBM has not performed well in the ratings locally. This is not a new problem: for most of the last 20 years, the station had lagged behind NBC’s WMAQ-TV and market leader WLS-TV, an ABC O&O – not to mention Tribune’s CW affiliate WGN-TV and Independent WCIU-TV at times.

Cohen didn’t offer any details, but he hopes the talent in place at the station gels in the right way. Cohen plans to offer a different presentation of news from other Chicago TV news outlets.

Ratings sagged further after a scandal developed after the station taped former WMAQ reporter Amy Jacobson at the house of Craig Stebic, who is a suspect in the disapperence of his wife Lisa. The station aired the tape, and was roundly critized in journalism circles for the decision.

Recently, the station made changes in its news and syndicated programming lineup – though questionable decisions. Rob Johnson is now anchoring the news solo at 6 and 10 p.m. , with former co-anchor Anne State now a reporter. The station laid off several staffers, incluidng long-time station faces Joanie Lum and Howard Sudsberry and discontinued weekend morning newscasts.

As for its syndicated lineup, the station moved Judge Judywho recently won the first-run syndication crown for the third straight week – to 4 p.m. for a better news lead-in while Dr. Phil moved to 3 p.m. The station decided not to renew Rachael Ray, which moves to WGN-TV at 10 a.m beginning September 14. Ray had been airing at 2 p.m. for the last three years, where it has not had much success.

The station does have some things going for it – since the switch to all-digital on June 12, the station’s over-the-air signal has improved (though some homes still are having trouble.) Before, the over-the-air digital signal has been hard to receive. On the same date, Comcast moved WBBM’s channel position from Channel 22 to Channel 2. With an improved reach, ratings for the station are expected to inch upward, while continuing to clean up the mess Joe Ahern left behind.

Some experts in the past blamed the station’s ratings woes on the station’s traditionally inferior analog signal on Channel 2 – though it did not stop WBBM from dominating the news ratings from the mid-1970’s to the mid-1980’s, when Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson were the star anchors.

In fact, Channel 2 wasn’t even WBBM-TV’s original channel allotment. Until July 1953, WBBM was Channel 4 in Chicago – but was moved to Channel 2 so it wouldn’t interfere with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, which moved from Channel 3 to Channel 4 – so it wouldn’t interfere with WKZO-TV (now WWMT) in Grand Rapids (which was Channel 3.)

Filed under “Church of Tisch”.

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