WGN-TV expands midday, evening newscasts

WGN-TV announced it has expanded its news and shuffled its weekday programming lineup, just two days into the new syndication television season.

Beginning October 5, WGN expands its 5:30 p.m. newscast an hour, starting at 5 p.m. Its midday newscast expands to 11a.m. and now run two hours until 1 p.m.

And to go along with the expansion are some anchor shuffles. Allison Payne will now co-anchor the midday newscast with Steve Sanders, moving from 5:30 p.m. Both Sanders and Payne co-anchored WGN’s 9 p.m. newscast for over a decade, until health problems forced her to cut back her workload.

Joining Mark Suppelsa for the expanded 5 p.m. newscast is Lourdes Daunte, a reporter at the station.

Meanwhile, Micah Materre – who had replaced Ms. Payne on an interim basis at 9 p.m. now has been named permanent co-anchor, joined with Suppelsa.

WGN’s announcement today comes at a time when other Tribune stations are also adding newscasts.  WPIX-TV in New York has a new 6:30 p.m. newscast starting Monday; KIAH-TV in Houston is adding a 5 p.m. news hour beginning September 28; and Fox affiliate WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids recently announced it was jumping into the early-evening newsrace as well with an one-hour show at 6 p.m..

KTLA in Los Angeles recently launched an hour-long evening newscast at 6 p.m.

KDAF-TV in Dallas announced an early evening newscast to begin this Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The moves are coming at a time when quality syndicated programming- first-run and off-network – is hard to come by. Shows that are available are mostly being sold for barter (with the syndicator keeping up to 3 1/2 minutes per half-hour to national advertisers), meaning the local station would have less ad inventory to sell. With local news, stations get to keep all ad inventory to sell themselves. 

WGN’s news expansion gives the station eight hours of news a day – more than any other station in Chicago, eFox-owned WFLD, which is losing a half-hour with the cancellation of its 10 p.m. newscast effective Friday (in fact, WGN’s general manager took a veiled shot at its crosstown competitor: “at a time when other television stations are cutting back on news, WGN-TV is proud to be devoting more programming hours to local and breaking news than any other station in Chicago”, noted GM Marty Wilke.)

The move means a shuffle of WGN’s syndicated lineup. The show losing time periods to news expansion  (Disney-ABC Television Distribution’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) moves to 1 and 1:30 p.m., respectively, replacing a Maury repeat.

WGN recently acquired Rachael Ray from CBS Television Distribution to run at 10 a.m.and added Tyra Banks’ talk show (courtesy of The CW) from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Steve Wilkos Show, which ran at 2 p.m. on WGN for the previous two seasons, is now on WCIU-TV at 11 a.m.

I was right! Back when WGN announced its 5:30 p.m. newscast, I predicted it would expand to an hour within two years. Victory is mine! Oh my goodness, I’m scared.


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