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Local News Close-Up: Plenty of Pros in Connecticut Market

Mark Dixon, meteorologist at WFSB
WFSB Hartford-New Haven meteorologist Mark Dixon (Image credit: WFSB)

Hartford-New Haven, Connecticut, has long enjoyed its location, situated roughly midway between Boston and New York. The urban bookends offer more than metropolitan proximity. As the nation crawls out of the pandemic, the Connecticut market is seeing more and more big-city people move in.

“We’re seeing a lot of New York folks coming up,” Rich Graziano, VP and general manager, WTNH-WCTX, said. “People are realizing, with their work-life balance, they don’t have to go in five days a week. There are mountains and trails, lakes and golf, and you can go to the ocean.”

The market crept to No. 32 from No. 33 between 2020 and 2021. 

Nexstar Media Group holds the ABC-MyNetworkTV pair, WTNH-WCTX. Gray Television acquired CBS affiliate WFSB late last year. NBCUniversal owns WVIT and Telemundo station WRDM. Tegna has WTIC-WCCT, a Fox-The CW duopoly. Entravision owns Univision-aligned WUVN. 

Comcast is the major cable operator in Hartford-New Haven. 

Stations are getting back to relative normal after a couple of COVID-19 affected years. WTNH has rebooted its CT Style lifestyle show, which had been shelved when an audience was not permitted in the studio. It restarts April 22. Natasha Lubczenko is the anchor and Griffin Pierson is the lifestyle reporter. 

Besides new graphics, CT Style offers a fresh mix of content. “People’s taste and interest in the marketplace is evolving,” said Graziano. 

WFSB premieres a 7 p.m. newscast May 2, running in place of canceled People (The TV Show!). WFSB had 7 p.m. news amid the pandemic and makes it a regular thing in a couple of weeks. Stephanie Simoni anchors. 

“Part of our goal, and a big part of Gray Television, is to do as much local as you can,” said Dana Neves, WFSB regional VP and general manager. She mentioned the 7 p.m. news being a “great success” when it ran last year. 

Last summer, WVIT premiered a 7 p.m. newscast. It has enjoyed offering the only local news in that slot, though that changes soon. Diane Hannes, president and general manager, WVIT-WRDM, described a non-traditional newscast with more in-depth stories. “It has found a local audience,” she said. 

Keisha Grant and Mike Hydeck NBC CT Evening News Anchors Weeknights at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm

Keisha Grant and Mike Hydeck anchor NBC Connecticut News for WVIT. (Image credit: WVIT)

Humberto Hormaza was named president and general manager of WTIC-WCCT in March, after a stint as senior VP and general manager at Entravision. He did not comment for this article. 

Based outside Hartford, WFSB is a ratings powerhouse. In March, the station won both the households and viewers 25-54 race at 6-7 a.m. WTNH was tops in 5-6 p.m. households, while WFSB narrowly beat WTNH in the 25-54 race. At 6 p.m. WTNH won a tight household race, with WFSB in the top spot in the demo. 

In late news, WFSB did a 3.15 household rating and 1.00 25-54 rating. WTNH rated a 2.63/0.40, WVIT a 2.32/0.95, and WTIC a 1.18 household score at 11 p.m., and 0.57 in 25-54. 

Neves cited “consistency in the product” as the key to WFSB’s success. “We have long-term, trustworthy folks in front of, and equally important, behind the camera,” she said. 

She also mentioned the market’s only live Doppler radar as “a huge advantage. Our job is to keep people safe.” 

Chuck Carter became WTNH news director late in 2018, after a run as executive producer of news at WTXF Philadelphia. Graziano said the Nexstar stations offer the most local news in DMA No. 32, around 63 ½ hours a week. That includes three hours of primetime news on WCTX, which began in 2020, with MyNetworkTV prime shifting to 11:30 p.m. 

Graziano mentioned a “nice group of experienced, seasoned anchors,” including Ann Nyberg and Dennis House. “We believe in longevity and trust and experience.”

Nyberg is the longest-serving, full-time female anchor/reporter in Connecticut television history, according to her bio. She anchors the 5, 6, 10 and 11 p.m. news, and hosts the lifestyle show Nyberg too. 

House co-anchors the 6 p.m. news and hosts This Week in Connecticut with Dennis House

Telemundo station WRDM is a partnership between NBC Connecticut and NBC’s setup in Boston, which includes NBC and Telemundo TV stations, NBC Sports Boston and New England Channel News. There are 10 WRDM employees in Hartford, and the station does two hours of local news a day, at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. 

News may expand. “I think we’re always considering it,” said Hannes. “Nothing is off the table.”

WVIT debuted an OTT newscast called The Connection in October 2021. “We are content creators so we are following the audience,” said Hannes. “If the audience wants to see local news on these platforms, we are giving it to them.”

Hartford-New Haven offers a mix of city and country, with historical sites, culture and upscale restaurants in the urban spots, along with hiking and water recreation out in the country. Graziano said New Haven has a New York feel, with art, history and high-end food, while Hartford is “quintessential New England.”

“There are cities, small towns, the shore and mountains,” said Hannes. “And you get in your car, and you’re in New York City or Boston in no time at all.”

The market’s proximity between the big cities also means good pizza, including Sally’s Apizza in New Haven and Pepe’s franchises across the state. Graziano grew up in Boston and used to be the GM at WPIX New York. “The pizza is legitimate,” he said of the local fare. ■

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.