WBBM-TV restores weekend morning newscasts

Courtney Gousman (left), Marissa Bailey, and Ed Curran.

WBBM-TV (CBS 2) announced the return of weekend morning newscasts to the station after a three-year hiatus.

The announcement was made during a meeting in the CBS-owned station’s newsroom with General Manager Bruno Cohen and News Director Jeff Kierman. Beginning on September 22, WBBM plans to air an hour of local news on Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. and from Sundays from 7-8 a.m. The Sunday block fits in with CBS Sunday Morning and Face The Nation, which recently expanded to an hour.

WBBM is the second local station to bring back local weekend newscasts in recent years; WGN-TV brought back weekend morning newscasts a few years ago after a short run in the mid-1990’s.

WBBM aired weekend newscasts until the spring of 2009, but were dropped due to budget cuts.

Anchoring WBBM’s newscasts is Marissa Bailey, who comes over from WGRZ, the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate in Buffalo. She’ll be joined by meteorologist Ed Curran and Chicago native Courtrney Gousman, who joined the station in June from KSDK in St. Louis, another Gannett-owned NBC affiliate.

Quoted from Kiernan: “Our hard work is paying off and viewers are responding to our efforts. By returning to local weekend morning newscasts this fall, we look forward to serving an even larger audience.”

Despite the sometimes odious nature of local news (the usual overhyped crime, weather, sports, fires, etc…), local ratings have never been better, thanks to recent events such as NATO and the Olympics. WBBM’s weekday morning newscasts have increased among adults 25-54 and households – pushing ahead of WFLD’s morning shows -and its late news ratings for May have also increased from a year ago in the key news demo. Ratings for WMAQ’s newscasts have also increased, thanks to the recent Summer Olympics.

In recent years, more and more stations around the country had been adding more weekend newscasts in order to catch viewers before heading out to weekend activities (and not to mention delivering them to advertisers.)

From the mid-1950’s to at least the early 1990’s, the major networks used their weekend morning lineups (mainly Saturday) to air animated and children’s fare, generating a lot of revenue and kept kids happy. Fox joined the party in 1990 with their own Saturday morning cartoons. The industry took notice however, when NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento started pre-empting cartoons for local news in 1989; ratings and revenues increased for the station, leading fellow NBC affiliates KRON in San Francisco (now with My Network TV) and WPXI in Pittsburgh to follow suit. NBC ditched animated fare for a sixth day of Today in 1992, with CBS following in 1996, and ABC cutting back kids’ fare to air GMA Weekend. Fox dropped its Saturday morning lineup at the end of 2008.

As the years wore on, kids’ preferences shifted to cable and live-action fare on the Disney Channel, while this and the FCC’s three-hour a week educational rule made the children’s TV business on the broadcast networks unprofitable. Today, only CW has a kids’ animated block on Saturday morning not bound by E/I rules, but its outsourced by a production company.