The final new episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show aired in May, and many stations that air the syndicated program, now in repeats, are lining up a new newscast to take its place. KNTV San Jose, WJAR Providence and WCCO Minneapolis are among the stations set to introduce an afternoon newscast as their Ellen DeGeneres deals end.
On September 12, KNTV will debut the East Coast feed of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt at 4 p.m., then NBC Bay Area News at 4:30, with Audrey Asistio the anchor.
“We’ll give people a peek behind the curtain as to how our newscasts come together,” Stacy Owen, KNTV-KSTS president and general manager, said. “We’ll draw back that curtain and bring people in to our [newsgathering] process.”
A wall between the studio and newsroom was torn down, and a presentation area was built in the newsroom, nicknamed The Duopoly Dome, as it serves both KNTV and its Telemundo sibling.
Asistio is from the Bay Area and knows the market intimately. “The selection of Audrey is very reflective of what we want the show to be,” Owen said. “It reinforces the Bay Area ties of our entire team.”
KVVU Las Vegas starts a 2 p.m. news in place of Ellen DeGeneres on September 5, giving the Gray Television station a whopping 15½ hours a day of local content. “When you need local news, we are the station you turn to,” Michael Korr, VP and general manager, told B+C.
Down in Los Angeles, Ellen DeGeneres occupies the 3 p.m.-4 p.m. slot at KNBC. On September 12, the station will have local news at 3 p.m. and NBC Nightly News at 3:30. (KNBC and KNTV, both part of the NBCUniversal group, will also air Nightly News in its traditional 6:30 p.m. slot.)
“When you look at Los Angeles, we thought news was the right choice,” KNBC president and general manager Todd Mokhtari said. “It’s such a big audience. With how things have changed the last few years, news was our Plan A the whole time.”
KNBC’s 3 p.m. news will see the station go in-depth on particular stories, said Mokhtari, instead of aiming to drive up the story count.
Work From Home, Watch From Home
COVID-19 is a factor in stations substituting local news for syndicated shows. The pandemic enhanced the relationship between consumers and vital local news, and many viewers found themselves working from home and increasingly available to watch local news.
“COVID did change the expectations of our audience for their newscasts,” said Mokhtari. “The information they want and need is so important — they want all of it, and don’t want to just scratch the surface.”
New 4 p.m. newscasts debuting in the coming days include one at WCCO Minneapolis, starting September 5, as Ellen departs and Dr. Phil shifts from 4 p.m. to 3. Erin Hassanzadeh and Jeff Wagner anchor the hour-long program. "The desire for local news is as strong as ever," WCCO VP and general manager Ann Ouellette said in a statement.
WJAR Providence launches one Tuesday, September 6, with the hour-long newscast replacing Ellen DeGeneres. NBC 10 News at 4 will be anchored by Tamara Sacharczyk. News director Scott Isaacs noted the increased working-from-home rate as a factor in the show’s launch. “The 4 p.m. newscast will bring [viewers] the latest breaking news, weather and traffic, plus we’ll help viewers save money, live healthier and know what’s going on in our community,” he added in a statement.
WJAR is the one Sinclair Broadcast Group station to insert news in place of Ellen DeGeneres, though the group does feature 4 p.m. newscasts in several markets, including Baltimore, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
Of course, not every station that has aired Ellen DeGeneres is going with news in that slot. Syndicated The Jennifer Hudson Show debuts September 12, with Fox Television Stations and Hearst Television among the groups to air the Warner Bros. show.
How Much Is Too Much?
Stations are introducing a wide array of new newscasts beyond time slots held down by Ellen. On September 12, KCNC Denver adds 10 hours of news a week, with new weekday programs from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. and 4 p.m.-5 p.m. “Our goal is to develop new relationships in our communities, allowing us to source more original content at the neighborhood level,” KCNC VP and general manager Tim Wieland said.
Starting September 12, CBS-owned stations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Denver and Miami launch 9 a.m. newscasts. Also part of CBS News and Stations, KCAL Los Angeles launches a morning news block that runs 4 a.m.-11 a.m. on weekdays in the fall. KCAL has never had a weekday morning news.
Gray TV’s WHNS Greenville, South Carolina, extends its 6 p.m. news to an hour September 12.
The NBC group, for its part, starts NBC News Daily on September 12, with Days of Our Lives moving to Peacock.
As stations double down on their unique offerings in an era defined by on-demand content on the streaming giants, it makes sense that many are slotting local news in place of a syndicated staple. Bill Hague, Magid executive VP, said it’s on the stations to make sure each new newscast is unique. “The question is, how much local news is too much?” he asked. “Are you able to provide unique content in each news time period?”
Startup newscasts require an investment in personnel and gear. Local news “makes a lot of sense but it’s not easy,” Hague added. “You have to invest in newsrooms and you have to invest in content creation.”
According to Owen, KNTV never did consider another syndicated show in place of Ellen. “This is an opportunity to provide a one-two punch in terms of national and local news,” she said. “More people are working from home and there is a new audience available at that time.” ■
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.