WGN-TV returns news to 10 p.m.

WGN-TV NewsExpands to 10 p.m. to compete with Big Three

Here we grow again: WGN-TV’s popular local newscasts are adding yet another half-hour – and this time, the Tribune Media-owned station is taking on the Big Three owned-and-operated stations with the launch of a local half-hour newscast at 10 p.m. beginning October 5.

WGN’s current 9 p.m. anchor team – Mark Suppelsa, Micah Materre, Dan Roan, and Tom Skilling, will also helm the 10 p.m. show.

“Thirty-five years after launching the WGN News at Nine, news consumption has changed dramatically. We know the appetite for news continues to grow,” said Greg Easterly, who is President and GM of WGN-TV . “This new, expanded half-hour will bring viewers all the news and weather you need to know before the night ends. It’s just too important of a time period for us not to be there.” With the expansion, WGN would now program 11.5 hours of news per weekday and more than 60 hours a week.

Fox-owned WFLD had a 10 p.m. newscast called The Ten, premiering in April 2007. Despite passing CBS-owned WBBM-TV in the 18-49 demo on a few occasions, the low-rated newscast was canceled in September 2009.

WGN’s entry could have an impact on the late news race. Unlike WFLD, WGN has strong ratings in the key 25-54 demo – and achieves a higher rating at 9 p.m. than WBBM does at 10 p.m., despite decent prime-time lead-ins. In July, ABC-owned WLS-TV led in households at 10 p.m., but the margin of victory was considerably less among adults 25-54.

Chicago Tribune ad for new 9 pm newscast and "Odd Couple" reruns from March 10, 1980. (Chicago Tribune)
Chicago Tribune ad for new 9 pm newscast and “Odd Couple” reruns from March 10, 1980. (Chicago Tribune)

The move comes as more and more local stations are expanding newscasts as demand for off-network and even first-run syndicated programming continues to diminish. Instead of programming another syndicated rerun at 11 p.m. to replace the failed Arsenio Hall revival, Tribune’s KTLA in Los Angeles quietly added a half-hour newscast to compete against the three network-owned stations in the time slot.

Many Fox stations have also added 10 p.m./11 p.m. newscasts over the years to compete with the big three brethren in late news in their markets.

To further drive home the point Tribune doesn’t need off-network sitcoms, WGN is moving the third airing of Craig Ferguson’s Celebrity Name Game to 10:30 p.m., competing directly against Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Stephen Colbert. Name Game also runs at 10 and 10:30 a.m.

Up until March 1980, WGN actually programmed a half-hour newscast at 10 p.m. – but moved it to 9 p.m. and became one of the first stations in the Midwest to launch a prime-time newscast. The inaugural 9 p.m. newscast on March 10, 1980 was helmed by John Drury, Len O’Connor, Bill Frink, and Tom Skilling (yes, the same one!)

So what replaced the 10’Oclock news on WGN? Reruns of The Odd Couple, followed by the premiere of an Australian import called Prisoner: Cell Block H, a rather violent show featuring shenanigans at a women’s prison.

Don’t drop the soap. For real.