Local newscasts return to St. Louis’ KDNL

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In Chicago, ABC-owned WLS-TV’s newscast have topped the charts for more than 20 years, completely dominating their time periods – and the same can be said for other ABC stations, including WABC in New York, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WPVI in Philadelphia, WFTV in Orlando, and WSB-TV in Atlanta.

KDNL-TV in St. Louis? Not so much. In fact, it doesn’t even have newscasts. Until now.

In an rather unique deal reported in today’s Bellville (Ill.) News-Democrat, Sinclair’s St. Louis ABC affiliate will begin airing newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. beginning Jan. 3 – with help of competing NBC affiliate KSDK-TV, St. Louis’ top-rated news operation, giving KDNL local news for the first  time in nearly a decade.

KDNL launched a full-time local news operation in 1986, when it signed up to be a Fox affiliate. In 1995, KDNL swapped affiliations with former ABC affiliate KTVI in the Fox-New World affiliation deal.

KDNL’s newscasts trailed those of its competition for years, not making much of a dent in the ratings of its four other competitors, including CBS affiliate KMOV and CW affiliate KPLR-TV. KDNL finally threw in the towel on October 12, 2001 when it canceled the newscasts due to low ratings.

Since then, KDNL has substituted syndicated programming instead. Currently, the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. time slots are occupied by Extra, and prior to that, the 10 p.m. slot was occupied by the half-hour version of Deal or No Deal.

Financial details are scarce – no word on if KSDK will sell the ad time on the news shows or if it is a revenue-sharing agreement. But the Gannett-owned station plans to produce the shows different from the newscasts airing on their own station.

Despite KDNL underperformance as an ABC affiliate, the network renewed its affiliation agreement with the station and eight others owned by Sinclair. ABC has historically underperformed in St. Louis at least since the late 1980’s – when KTVI was an ABC affiliate, it often ran fifth overall in the ratings (the position KDNL occupies now)  with its newscasts finishing behind syndicated reruns on other channels. KTVI even ran daytime talk show Geraldo at 6 p.m. during the 1988-89 season while other network affiliates aired local news and game shows.

KTVI’s ratings have improved since going to Fox, but still remains behind KSDK and KMOV in the news ratings and in most other locally time periods.

With KDNL re-entering the local news race, it leaves CBS-owned WWJ-TV in Detroit as the only Big Four network affiliate in a Top 25 market without evening or late newscasts, though it does air a local morning headline-type news show produced in partnership with The Detroit News.

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