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WFAA8 readying first-ever 4 p.m. newscast opposite established hours on NBC5 & CBS11 (updated)


WFAA8 plans to supplant Katie with 4 p.m. local newscast.

After two years of resistance, WFAA8 is hiring staffers for its first-ever 4 p.m. local newscast.

Sources say the newscast tentatively will launch in September and likely have a single anchor rather than the co-anchor formats at NBC5 and CBS11 for their 4 p.m. news editions.

The ABC affiliate’s 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts, once a dominant ratings force in D-FW, have struggled in the past two years after a long and prosperous run with The Oprah Winfrey Show as their 4 p.m. table-setter.

During an interview with unclebarky.com in May 2011, WFAA8 president and general Mike Devlin rebuffed suggestions that it might be time for the station to “make its own bed” at 4 p.m. rather than rely on unpredictable and often expensive syndicated programming. Devlin, who now has a standing “no comment” policy regarding all inquiries from this website, said at the time that a 4 p.m. newscast would tax the resources and budget of the station while also saturating the 4 p.m. hour with too much local news.

That thinking now has changed after both Dr. Oz and the past season’s Katie failed to deliver from a ratings standpoint. In the May “sweeps” ratings period, Katie averaged 55,074 viewers to run fourth behind NBC5’s front-running First At Four (89,495), CBS11’s 4 p.m. news (75,726) and Fox4’s syndicated Judge Judy, which averaged 75,726 for its second 4:30 p.m. episode.

Katie moved up to third place, ahead of CBS11, among 25-to-54-year-olds (main advertiser target audience for news programming).

WFAA8 news director Carolyn Mungo has not returned email requests for comment on the new 4 p.m. WFAA8 newscast or the fate of Katie, which has been renewed for a second season despite performing under expectations in many markets. Katie presumably would move to an earlier time slot on WFAA8 but that’s not a certainty.

The station has a job posting on wfaa.com for “a producer who will plan and create WFAA’s first 4 p.m. newscast.”

Applicants “must be creative, able to producer interactive and smart newscasts and have a good understanding of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to incorporate into the newscast,” the job description says.

Pre-dating the fall 1986 premiere of The Oprah Winfrey Show, WFAA8 for a while had a 4:30 p.m. newscast that followed the station’s weekday 3 p.m. movie. Titled First News, it ran for one hour, leading directly into ABC’s World News Tonight.

A 4 p.m. local newscast on WFAA8 would leave Fox4 as the market’s only major TV news provider without a late afternoon edition. But Fox4 already has several more hours of local newscasts than any of its competitors, including a 7 to 9 a.m. extension of Good Day and a 9 p.m. edition that competes against network entertainment programming.

On Thursday of last week, WFAA8 and 19 other stations owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp. were sold to Gannett Co., Inc., which anticipates taking full ownership by the end of this year.

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