It’s been non-existent since television first had a picture in the 1940s. New York City has never had a one-hour 11 p.m. newscast. But, that all changed at the start of 2011 when WABC/Channel 7 expanded its late weekend newscast.
Anchors Sandra Bookman and Joe Torres, meteorologist Jeff Smith, and sports anchor Laura Behnke now give viewers a comprehensive 60 minutes until midnight.
“We thought that another half-hour of news would be better received by the viewers than the repeat, syndicated programming that we have been running there,” Dave Davis, WABC president and general manager, tells FishbowlNY.
It’s rare to consider a newscast counter-programming, but with options like Saturday Night Live on WNBC and recent episodes of Alcatraz and New Girl on WNYW/Channel 5, WABC is providing another choice for the proven commodities.
Davis says the change has already been evident, as numbers indicate more people sticking with WABC’s news during the weekend than prior to the expansion.
“To be truthful, our station in San Francisco, KGO, was the first to try it and it worked well for them,” Davis admits. “…We have that ability because we don’t have network programming at 11:35, like we do Monday through Friday.”
Davis says ABC O & Os in Chicago and Los Angeles are also following the formula.
The WABC GM says it’s full steam ahead with no trial period needed. However, when college football season begins, and the network televises a Saturday night game, or special occasions like the Oscars, the station will return to a half-hour.
“You get to a point where it’s too late to have any size of an audience,” Davis says.