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WNBC Swapping 5 PM News For Lifestyle Show


Behind The Scenes At WNBC's New York Nonstop

NBC Stations Shift Strategy

Almost thirty years after debuting its iconic Live at Five brand, WNBC New York is scrapping 5 p.m. news for an hour-long lifestyle program in the fall.

Produced by NBC Local Media's LX.TV, LX New York will air live from Rockefeller Center and around the market. It debuts September 14.

LX New York is targeting suburban women who would typically tune in to cable-women's networks like Lifetime, as well as Food Network and Bravo, according to LX.TV founder/General Manager Morgan Hertzan. The show will feature fashion, cooking, gossip and general entertainment fare, including celebrities talking about New York. LX NY talent will frequently venture into the tri-state region's suburbs.

"If you're a suburban housewife in New York, we'll come after you and find you," says Hertzan with a laugh.

LX NY will also include news headlines and weather reports, along with interactive elements. Hertzan and WNBC VP of Content and Audience Development Vickie Burns say the show, which will be rich in New York content, is not initially intended to be customized and rolled out for the other markets in which NBC owns stations.

WNBC's news struggles have been well-documented, and its 5 p.m. newscast has long had trouble finding an audience. In September 2007, it and sister NBC O&O WTVJ Miami scrapped their 5 p.m. newscasts for a 7 p.m. news. WNBC now airs the syndicated show Extra at 7, while Chuck Scarborough anchors an hour-long 7 p.m. newscast on its digital channel New York Nonstop, which debuted in March.

WNBC has increased its lifestyle content of late, at times at the expense of news. Early plans for New York Nonstop suggested a 24/7 news channel; the project's working title prior to launch was New York's Newschannel. WNBC's website was rechristened, with more of an entertainment and fashion focus. (The whole station group took on that Web model.) Earlier this month, Burns shifted from VP of news and content to VP of content and audience development. She says a search is underway for a person to manage news at WNBC.

Formerly the VP of News at WRC Washington, Burns insists WNBC's news focus remains strong. "We're producing more news today than we've ever done. We have more news content in more places than any other station in the market," she says, mentioning the station's taxicab newscasts.

Asked if newsroom layoffs would result from the fall's 5 p.m. shift, Burns commented: "We're investing in a growth opportunity. We're not looking at retrenchment."

The hosts of LX New York have not been revealed, though LX.TV's Sara Gore has been rumored to front the program.

Sue Simmons and David Ushery anchor NewsChannel 4 at 5 p.m. (the newscast no longer uses the Live at Five branding). Simmons will continue to anchor the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, and Ushery will still anchor and report for the station.

NBC Local Media acquired LX.TV in January 2008. It was initially a broadband video network catering to "young, affluent urbanites."

Hertzan says LX NY's advertising mix will include grocery stores, tourism, department stores and home builders, among others. The program will borrow the "great big house party" vibe, he says, from the old Live at Five programs.

Burns believes it's a worthwhile alternative to both local broadcast news and niche cable programming. "You don't have to watch cable reruns," she says.

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.