For the second time in less than a week, a Toledo television station has revealed plans to shuffle its local news lineup.
Beginning Aug. 20, WNWO-TV, Channel 24, plans to move its struggling weekday newscast that now airs from 5 to 6 p.m. to the 7 to 8 p.m. time slot.
And on Sept. 10, when NBC expands its Today show by an hour, stretching it from 7 to 11 a.m., Channel 24 will follow with a new half-hour morning news program from 11 to 11:30 a.m.
WNWO's 2 1/2-hour weekly news expansion comes on the heels of last Sunday's announcement that WTOL-TV, Channel 11, will add to its weekday news programming with another hour of local news from 9 to 10 a.m., starting Sept. 10.
On Sept. 16, the CBS affiliate also plans to reintroduce a Sunday morning newscast, from 7 to 9 a.m.
Judge Judy, which currently fills the 7 to 8 p.m. time slot at Channel 24, will swap places with the 5 to 6 p.m. newscast, which drew a paltry 5 percent share of the audience, according to the May ratings released by Nielsen Media Research.
WNWO's new evening lineup will consist of the regular half-hour newscast from 6 to 6:30 p.m. and NBC network news from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by the new locally produced news block.
The 7 to 8 p.m. newscast at WNWO, which is last among the four local stations in terms of total viewers for local news, is the first of its kind in Toledo. The city ranks 71st in the country in total market size, according to Nielsen.
Channel 24's decision to abandon the 5 to 6 p.m. news show will leave ratings leader WTOL and runner-up WTVG-TV, Channel 13, as the only stations with nightly newscasts from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
WUPW-TV, Channel 36, has a news program from 4 to 4:30 p.m.
WNWO general manager Rick Lipps explained the decision to overhaul the station's newscasts in a memo to his staff this week.
"Traditionally, TV stations program their local newscasts in a time period that is most convenient to the station," he wrote. "This was fine 10 years ago when viewing patterns and lifestyle, along with limited viewing options, allowed television to dictate viewing of local news.
"Local news is just as important today as it was 10 years ago. In today's global environment and era of instant access 'anytime anywhere,' our ability to be there for our audience is more important than ever.
"The Toledo market has over 50,000 more television viewers available at 7 p.m. than at 5 p.m."
The extra hour of Today on Channel 24 will replace Martha Stewart's show from 10 to 11 a.m., while the planned half-hour news program that follows will take the place of paid programming.
Though Lipps announced there would be additional staffing, he declined to name the anchors for either of the new broadcasts.
Lipps also said WNWO plans to overhaul its Web site, nbc24.com, which will coincide with the unveiling of the 7 to 8 p.m. show in August.
"We are hiring an Internet content manager who will oversee our Web site and work jointly with all departments and Barrington (Broadcasting) Interactive," he said.
Channel 24 can only hope its gamble to offer news at nontraditional times translates into higher ratings.
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