Locals Clear Extra Hour for ‘Today’

NEW YORK NBC has yet to disclose the details of its planned additional hour of Today, but that hasn’t stopped affiliates from clearing it for debut Sept. 10.

The fourth hour has cleared 96 percent of the country with 90 percent of affiliates running the hour in-pattern at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m.

“If you think of the Today show as a store, it was first open two hours, then closed. Now the store doesn’t close any more. People are coming to the Web site to stream video, read blogs, get recipes, around-the-clock,” said Jim Bell, executive producer of Today.

Four years in the making, NBC said it plans to announce programming and format details of the fourth hour in the coming weeks. But if the third hour of Today, launched September 2000, is any indication, the fourth hour will be softer and more personality driven than the original 7 to 9 a.m. format. Affiliates will still get two breaks for local news and two breaks for local weather.

For WESH, Hearst-Argyle Television’s NBC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., adding Today made both economic and programming sense. “The price is right and we’re not spending thousands of dollars a week for some untested show no one has seen. We’ve been down that road before,” said Bill Bauman, president and general manager of WESH. “Even though we don’t have the format yet, I’m not concerned. This is a time-proven product.”

WESH will clear the fourth hour at 11 a.m., keeping No. 1-rated Regis and Kelly in its 9 to 10 a.m. time slot. The Martha Stewart Show will move from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHDH, Sunbeam Television’s affiliate in Boston, is also keeping Regis and Kelly in place and airing the fourth hour of Today at 11 a.m.

Bauman also likes the 11 a.m. hour of Today as a lead-in for the station’s noon newscast. “The news gets softer as it goes from hour to hour, but it’s still NBC News and they still react to breaking news,” Bauman said.