Looking to expand on its claim to be "Baltimore's News Station," WJZ-TV announced yesterday that it will add an hour of late-afternoon news to its evening newscast lineup.
The move, tentatively scheduled for the beginning of the fall season, would make WJZ (Channel 13) the first local station to offer a regular hourlong news show at 4 p.m. It would give WJZ three straight hours of local news programming from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and would be the only 4 p.m. newscast locally outside of Washington.
It would potentially also give WJZ a stronger competitor in that hour against the formidable Oprah, Oprah Winfrey's long-running, successful syndicated talk show that airs on WBAL (Channel 11). WJZ is currently airing back-to-back episodes of the game show The Weakest Link in that hour.
"At least for us, the most important motivator looking at extending our broadcast to three hours is looking at how viewers use television," said Jay Newman, WJZ vice president and general manager, who informed the station's staff of the plan yesterday. "It's about reaching a lot of viewers and [meeting] their needs. ... Families no longer sit down at the dinner table and watch the 6 o'clock news together, at least not as much as they used to."
He said that the Internet and an increasing number of cable news stations offer viewers news and information throughout the day. A 4 p.m. newscast, he said, can be timely in many regards, with reports on rush-hour traffic, weather and closing stock market figures.
Advertisers who can't afford the 6 p.m. or 11 p.m. newscasts are expected to sign up for the 4 p.m. broadcast, which will have a smaller audience, Newman said.
"Our expectations are we can do well from not only a business, but from a viewer standpoint," he said.