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NECN Makeover’s Personality-Driven

Looking to add viewership through more personality-driven newscasts, New England Cable News will revamp much of its morning and evening programming later this month.

Visible on the air come Jan. 31, the changes mark the first major rethink of NECN’s programming approach since its inception in 1992, said station manager Charles Gravetz.

They include an expanded live show in the morning and a revision of the primetime weeknight sports show.

The format and personality are being accompanied by a digital conversion rendering its newsroom and backroom tapeless, aiding NECN in providing more timely and updated segments throughout the day.

“We’re doing this from a position of strength,” said Gravetz. “We had a fabulous year in 2004 and now we’re making this investment in capital and human resources to become an even stronger station.”

Measured only in the Boston market, NECN averaged 1 million weekly cumulative viewers in 2004.

The upcoming program changes follow NECN’s pickup by RCN last month in the Boston DMA, adding close to 75,000 homes to the Comcast Corp.- and Hearst Corp.-owned network, now serving 3.2 million households throughout New England.

The modifications begin early. Wake Up Weather, which formerly ran from 5 to 5:30 a.m., is adding a half-hour and the moniker Wake Up News and Weather. Matt Noyes will join the network as meteorologist.

Goodmorning Live, airing from 6 to 9 a.m., succeeds Goodmorning New England and adds an hour. It is the longest morning news block in Boston, according to Gravetz.

Shannon Ogden joins Leslie Gaydos and Mike Nikitas to form the market’s only three-anchor team for the live telecast. (The second hour of Goodmorning New England repeats the first.)

Traffic reports, illustrated by live shots from helicopters, will occur every 15 minutes, with updates from other major cities in the region.

The show will be followed from 9 to 10 a.m. by New England Daily Live, featuring new anchor Myriam Wright.

In primetime, NewsNight With Chet Curtis and Jim Braude will give way to Chet Curtis Live at 8 p.m. It will serve as New England’s first evening newscast, a live roundup show replete with extended coverage of the day’s events.

Braude surfaces a half-hour later with NewsNight With Jim Braude, showcasing interviews and a short news-headline segment.

NECN has elevated Chris Collins, with the network since 1998, to sole anchor of the 11 p.m. weeknight show, Sports LateNight With Chris Collins, set to bow on Jan. 17.

Gravetz said awareness for the changes is being driven on-air and through cross-channel avails on Comcast systems. There will also be plenty of push by the anchors to trumpet the following newscasts.

“Chet Curtis is the most recognizable anchor in Boston, and Jim Braude is witty, energetic and he also has a hit radio show (WTKK’s Live with Margery Eagan and Jim Braude),” said Gravetz.

“We want to emphasize their personalities and create appointment viewing.”

Expect a similar tact in March when NECN’s late-afternoon/early evening, as well as weekend lineup, undergoes a facelift.

At press time, plans called for Amanda Rosseter to anchor her own news program at 4 p.m., followed by R.D. Sahl at 5 p.m and Curtis at 6 p.m.