Friday, July 17, 2009

KEYE TV Cancels Its 5 O'clock Newscast

The Eye Blinked

The upbeat news release this week touts KEYE-TV’s planned new, one-hour 4 O’clock starting September 15th. What was not said blew right by many people, including me. KEYE is pulling the plug on its 5 p.m. news. The 5 O’clock news broadcast never achieved traction in this fickle market. Not even well-known and liked anchors Judy Maggio and Ron Oliveira now joined by meteorologist Troy Kimmel have been able to drag the show out of the ratings basement. In “the business” when an audience is too insignificant for measurement it gets “hash” marks (///). Hash often has been KEYE’s daily diet during some quarter hours.

Admittedly I was flustered with other items the day of the announcement (That was the day I posted about KLBJ AM’s racist gaffe during the “Don and Todd Show”. ), and I just said, “That’s interesting.” I attempted to get more information from management, but they said details of the announced newscast were still being formulated. I said, OK, and I posted the KEYE news release verbatim with a post script that KXAN TV (NBC) had tried doing news at 4 p.m. for a while and abandoned it.

Today (Friday, July 17th), I took another look at the new late afternoon schedule starting September 15th:

3:00pm Dr Phil4:00pm KEYE 4pm News
5:00pm The Insider
5:30pm CBS Evening News
6:00pm KEYE News at 6pm

An alternative to local news will air in the 5 p.m. slot, “The Insider”.
The national television industry web site “TV Spy Water Cooler” sizzled with comments, some obviously from local people familiar with the Austin market. This comment capsules the conversation:

“KEYE is the bottom feeder. Previous posters are correct, KXAN tried and failed with a 4PM. HUT [Households Using Television] levels are ridiculously low at 4 PM because Austin has such great weather and such a young and active population.

“What wouldn't surprise me in Sept 2010 would be to see KEYE put 2 & 1/2 Men at 6PM to go against FOX and KNVA, then air a newscast 6:30-7pm.”

Another writer suggested a 6:30-7 news cast. Sandwiched in the middle is CBS News with Katie Couric at 5:30 p.m. CBS has made some ratings gains in recent months. Further, it won the Edward R. Murrow award for “Best Network New Cast”, while NBC won the national Murrow for overall excellence. In any event, KEYE is taking a different strategy in September, giving it time to perhaps grow an early local news audience before the November ratings.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Anonymous said...

Hi McNabb, just wondering why you can't also include items from the TVSpy Boards (if you ARE going to quote a message board) that say something upbeat about the station:

"I'm still not sure why KEYE can't get any numbers. In terms of content and production KEYE usually rivals KXAN (in content) and KVUE (in production).

They've even kept the same anchors for more than 6 months, and it's not like they've hired nobodies either."

I'm an insider at KEYE and believe content is comparable to other stations and the stories are produced with our viewers in mind. We strive toward excellence as does any other television outlet and every other journalist. We are proud of what we do. We are proud of who we are.

I just can't understand why changes have to be looked at with such a critical eye, especially among TV insiders such as yourself. You of all people should know that newsrooms are adapting to a changing industry. Maybe that includes scrapping a 5 p.m. newscast and going for an hour at 4, or in every station's case, putting more resources toward the internet. You worked in every newsroom in town. Why not encourage your colleagues instead of criticizing them? Perhaps you didn't get the response you wanted from management, but you also didn't include some of the comments from others who see the change as a good thing. This business could use a lot more compassion and unity nowadays. We're all in this boat together. Can't we all just get along?

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note:

Hi Anonymous ...

Yes, we can all get along.

And, Yes, I'm going to report facts. And, yes, there is going to be competition.

No, I didn't copy and paste all of the TV Spy site because, while I couldn't find a copyright (I looked), I didn't feel good about copying all of the positive AND negative comments. I picked the one that seem to represent the whole. Reread what I wrote.

You filled in some of what I didn't say regarding the quality of the product at KEYE TV. I am proud to have worked there, albeit short because of medical issues. I strived for excellence every second that I was there, but frankly, I felt restrained at times.

We in the industry can and do have compassion, but look at the numbers. There is no compassion there.

Here, I must report truth.

Further, if I can't get "truth" from news and station management, much less the person who controls who gets KEYE news releases from creative services of all places, I must write from the information that I have.

Some at KEYE TV may be becoming paranoid. That's understandable.

Look at today's post. I was factual. I was honest. I was fair. I might be considered compassionate by some.

The problem is that TV and newspapers aren't used to being questioned by other journalists.

All media must be subjected to a critical eye. We're a part of the constitution.

It's not about unity. It's about competition. It's about practicing journalism. On this night when Walter Conkite died, I'm more aware than ever of the imporance of these things.

KEYE TV is now the CBS legacy of Walter Conkite.

All news media should strive to that level of excellence. It takes, as Dan Rather used to say, courage.


Lance Hagood said...

They must be kidding if they think the "stock and bond set", the "new" wealth, and the "the internetters" who never seem to know what time it is will watch.
I don't think the demographic that is off "work" at 4pm cares too much about local news, unless it is severe weather.
Detune the 5 a little,lightening it up and save it for the "official comment" and social engineering, taking deadline pressure off the staff, and put the cash into a 9-11pm. Boost the breaks, edit longer packages, talk slower. Keep every piece of live gear out and hit them 3 or 4 times. Have 3 major Weathers. Cover extended Sports.
Take everything away from Fox at 9. You'll see.
You'll bank. Didn't we used to have Uncle Jay and Packer Jack at 4PM?
I don't watch KEYE too much, but KXAN hits you like a train. It is well though out, structured, yet visual.
They still understand that there is a bit of "show" in "show business". 95% of the demographic is working so hard, they care little about "business".
This may be an attempt to cultivate more affluent
viewers, with corresponding upscale breaks that cost more money to air? A critical eye is good for everyone. Sometimes I watch any of the big 4, and wonder if I saw a newscast. It's like eating popcorn...I just didn't get full. Sometimes it's dramatic and effective, but not on a daily basis.
Local news in this town was more competitive and more exciting in the "booming" 80's. We would have swooned to have the gear AND the on-air talent you have now. Go back and pull a bunch of air checks from back then and do exactly the same items, and see what happens. You need a little fire through the roof, a grinding wreck, and less civic social theory and official comment.
Be flexible, I realize what you are up against.

Anonymous said...

Not related to KEYE changes, but if anyone knows, you (or your readers) will: What happened to Tom Harris at KVUE? And will he be replaced?

Anonymous said...

All very interesting... I commented before how adding news may help the bottom line, but now we learn the 5 is gone. So they think they can beat Oprah? Good luck with that. I also find it humorous how it all came out, "We are proud to announce an all new 4pm newscast!" "Shhhhh, by the way... the 5 has been cancelled". Wha? Good luck KEYE!

Larry Brill said...

I noticed the disappearance of the 5pm cast from the lineup in your first post. Thought it interesting and couldn't help wondering what (if any) research KEYE has that makes it think 4 PM will draw viewers that 5 PM did not. My guess is they simply don't want to be without some early visibility because otherwise it might look like they're "doing less".
In my thinking, the biggest reason for KEYE's woes (and news ratings in general) is a simple one, that most of the news as performed by the local stations is no longer relevant and the viewers are telling us that by voting with their channel changers (or power buttons).
And, yep, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the answer. I can only suggest how to make it relevant to me--and I know that wouldn't attract a mass audience.
The audience has become a fractured crowd of "me"s and mass media is terribly unsuited for success in that environment.
Put my back against the wall and force me to make a prediction and I'd side with the folks who believe 5 years from now the local stations will be "niche" stations like radio formats (and cable tv already is). One local station will be all news/weather/talk, and another all entertainment, and a third will be all sports.
If I owned one of them, I'd be looking right now at which of those programming scenarios provides the biggest profit margin and stake my claim.