WRTV does away with weekend morning newscasts

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WRTV-TV Channel 6 has canceled its “Good Morning Indiana” weekend newscasts.

Lana Durban Scott, WRTV's general manager, said the weekend morning news programming was discontinued July 1. She said no employees were let go as part of the cancellation.

"This is about making the most of our resources," Scott said. "It made more sense to redeploy our weekend staff … to Monday through Friday."

Weekend editions WRTV’s morning newscast took up the 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. time slots on Saturdays, with a one-hour break for “Good Morning America” between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. The show ran from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sundays.

“Good Morning Indiana” aired on weekends for just under five years. Its pilot weekend newscast was on Sept. 7, 2013, a programming effort that, at the time, added eight WRTV employees.

WRTV is replacing the Saturday programming with shows including “Picker & Ben,” “Kickin’ It with Byron Allen,” and “Women of Power.” Sunday’s will feature “Lifestyle Magazine” and “In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley.”

Ratings for WRTV’s weekend morning news weren’t strong. Saturday mornings in May pulled a 0.7 to 1.0 rating across households aged 25 to 54 — or an estimated 7,511 to 10,730 households on average, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.

That doesn't include the Saturday morning broadcast of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which aired on multiple stations to big audiences the morning of May 19.

Scott said, beyond the ratings, she felt her staff could generate more relevant and meaningful content by focusing on weekday coverage.

“There wasn't a long analysis of the numbers. My end line was maintaining the headcount,” she explained. “We're constantly evaluating … and we will make more of an impact with this change.”

While garnering Saturday morning viewership isn't easy for anyone, according to Bruce Bryant, president and creative director of Promotus Advertising Co., WRTV’s overall low ratings in the market probably should have prevented it from adding weekend morning news in the first place.

“You're seeing the result of an overaggressive philosophy on local programming," Bryant said. “Expanding your inventory isn’t useful if there's no demand for that inventory."

Bryant suggested that WRTV executives should consider replacing the weekend “Good Morning Indiana” schedule with programs that focus exclusively on local issues or politics, versus general, hard news.

"They need to come through with innovative thinking and a lot of equity sweat," he said. "Saturday mornings are good for unique news, and good for political programming … The political landscape is rich and volatile for the news media. It's a subject that's very polarized, and polarization is good for viewership."

When Scott became general manager in January, she told the IBJ her main programming objectives included expanding support for the 11 p.m. newscast and coverage of the Indianapolis 500.

She also is trying to increase community involvement and volunteerism — a goal she believes the station reached with its Washington Irving School book drive and other initiatives.

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