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Springing Ahead

Times have changed in South Bend—literally. Thanks to the state's long-resisted decision to finally observe daylight-saving time, stations in Nielsen's No. 87 market are heading into their first summer on Eastern Daylight Time. The change put an end not only to decades of Hoosier defiance but also to persistent confusion over television schedules.

Before the switch, South Bend spent part of the year on Eastern Standard Time. From April to late October, while Eastern markets jumped an hour ahead, Indiana markets stayed behind and were basically on Central time. As a result, primetime in that period started and ended an hour earlier and shortened prime access by a half-hour, eliminating a time slot for news or syndicated product before network evening news.

“It was very difficult to work like that,” says Matt Jaquint, general manager of NBC affiliate WNDU. “We have more time now, and we can show a 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. news.”

The change adds stability to a market that is home to Notre Dame University but which station executives say is more than a college town. “The hospital system is strong, telecommunications has been good, and retail is good,” says John Mann, general manager of Schurz Communications' CBS affiliate WSBT. Stations took in $38.5 million in gross revenues last year, according to BIA Financial.

Gray Television purchased top station WNDU from Notre Dame in March for $85 million. Jaquint says the station hopes to “draw upon the success and failures of Gray's 35 other stations.” In the fall, WNDU will add The Rachael Ray Show as part of a group deal with other Gray stations and will get a new set and weather equipment. However, the station will likely give up its helicopter—a luxury in a market this size—at the end of the year.

WNDU remains the top-rated station in primetime and in early and late news. Competition is tighter in the key news demo, adults 25-54, with WSBT winning 5 p.m. news and gaining elsewhere. WSJV is also a player in news, with a full complement of early-morning, evening and highly competitive late news. Weigel Broadcasting's ABC affiliate WBND (see box) carries the network's Good Morning America and World News Tonight but does not broadcast local news.

Few, if any, stations will miss the old schedule, but it did help WSBT avoid a hefty fine. The station was among the CBS affiliates cited for indecency after a Dec. 31, 2004, airing of Without a Trace. However, the FCC repealed the fine upon learning that WSBT was on Eastern, not Central, time and had aired the episode at 10 p.m., outside the decency “safe harbor.”