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TV stations bring more morning news to air

September 4, 2013

WRTV-TV Channel 6 will boost its weekend-morning offerings on Saturday, when it resumes a newscast eliminated years ago by penny-pinching former owner McGraw-Hill.

The addition is among the latest moves from local TV stations to expand news programming. For example, WISH-TV Channel 8 on Monday plans to start its “Daybreak” weekday morning news a half-hour earlier, at 4:30 a.m., to cater to early risers. That will bring its morning newscasts on weekdays to 3-½ hours per day.

WXIN-TV Fox59 remains first to air on weekdays, with a block of local news beginning at 4 a.m. It started that newscast in early 2011.

But WRTV has the most to gain in potential advertising revenue when it comes to bolstering its morning news. It will be the last of the four local network TV affiliates in recent years to offer weekend morning newscasts. It’s a strategy to generate additional local advertising revenue as much as viewer eyeballs.

WRTV's “Good Morning Indiana” weekend edition will air Saturdays between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and then from 9.a.m. to 10 a.m. The station also will launch morning news on Sundays, from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Moreover, the ABC affiliate will move its “Indianapolis This Week” show to 7:30 a.m. on Sundays from its current mid-morning slot. The show will also get a full-time host in the form of veteran newsman Rafael Sanchez.

“This will really give the show a solid base,” said Terri Cope-Walton, news director at WRTV.

Former owner McGraw-Hill eliminated the weekend newscast several years ago in a cost-saving move, said Paul Montgomery, director of audience development.

Cope-Walton and WRTV general manager Larry Blackerby pitched its new owner, Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps, on making an investment to resume the weekend morning news. Last May, Scripps gave WRTV the green light to hire eight additional people to support the existing weekday morning news, as well as the upcoming weekend version of "Good Morning Indiana."

Those hires include a digital news editor for weekends. WRTV and other local stations increasingly deliver news through their online and mobile sites, as well as their traditional TV platforms.

In May and June, WRTV hired additional on-air talent, including Jade Hindmon and Kyle Mounce, who will co-anchor the weekend morning newscasts.

“Whatever revenue you get from doing a local newscast on Saturdays is more than you’re going to get from carrying the network,” said Bill Perkins, a media buyer and principal of Perkins Nichols Media.

On the other hand, he noted, the city’s other television stations already offer morning news on weekends, so “I can’t believe it’s going to be great revenue potential, at least not until you show some ratings.”

WRTV is betting the move will pay off over time, noting that resumption of weekend morning news also coincides with lifestyle changes of viewers.

“People are staying busy on the weekends," Cope-Walton said. "They still want to know the forecast. They want to plan around their events."

She said the new morning offering will be heavy on practical content such as traffic and information about events, in addition to breaking news and updates on stories reported the night before.

Since it was acquired by Scripps in 2011, WRTV also has expanded its local sports offerings on Home Town Sports & News, Channel 6.2. The channel includes events from the Indiana High School Athletic Association and local colleges, as well as broadcasts of Indianapolis Indians baseball games.

A number of its competitors offer re-runs of classic TV shows on their digital sub-channels.

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