WPIX, a WB affiliate owned by Tribune Co., debuted a two-hour morning news show in June 2000 after The WB dropped its morning cartoons block. The show, which ran from 6 to 8 a.m. in the beginning, added a half-hour at 5:30 a.m. and then, a few months ago, expanded to 9 a.m.
Its competition is market leader NBC’s Today (5.4 rating/15 share) and ABC’s Good Morning America (4.4 rating/12 share) plus a long-established show on its local rival, Fox’s Good Day New York (2.5 rating and 7 share). WPIX’s most recent showing – 1.9 rating and 5 share – puts it ahead of Univision’s Despierta America (1.5/4) and another network program, CBS’ The Early Show (1.1/3). WPIX’s WB11 Morning News registered a year-over-year increase of almost 19%.
There’s a heavy local emphasis. Its two news anchors are joined by a meteorologist, traffic reporter and outside sports, business, Washington and local reporters. But it’s also got a full-time entertainment reporter – formerly Jennifer Lopez’ sister Lynda and now Emily Francis – who has been pulling down interviews with celebrities you’d find more on a network show than a local one, even in New York City. Just this week, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant and Cameron Diaz have been interviewed.
WPIX VP/General Manager Betty Ellen Berlamino said the station identified the entertainment news as important in this market, which is why there’s been a full-time reporter assigned to it since the beginning. It also helps in competing with the higher-profile national shows like Today and Good Morning America. But The WB11 Morning News still lives or dies by its local emphasis, which sets it apart from the network competition.
“With the morning show, the important thing is that we’re a local news show. We will always compete on a different level with the traditional network shows … We’ve got a heavy emphasis on traffic and weather, two key ingredients on any local morning show,” Berlamino said.
The local emphasis was built into the program from the beginning, Berlamino said. Berlamino launched the Tribune Co.’s morning news program on KTLA, which is Los Angeles’ highest-rated morning show. There are also morning shows at other Tribune stations in Chicago, Seattle, Indianapolis and elsewhere.
Berlamino said support from advertisers – about 80% of the ads come from the New York metro region – has been great. From the beginning, she said, the buying community embraced the show and wanted it to succeed. They also knew what differentiated a local morning show from its network competition.
“Networks can never provide to a viewer what a local station can provide. They will do cut ins and some weather and sometimes some traffic. We’ve got a helicopter, we’ve got a full-time reporter in the helicopter. That was always very important to us. We didn’t want to go forward in the market without it,” she said.
With the transition from a two-hour show to a three-and-a-half hour show ending at 9 a.m. every weekday, Berlamino said they want to keep adding to their ratings gains. She said it’s hard to change news viewing patterns, but she was happy they’ve been able to find success. Berlamino said WB11’s next step is to continue to chip away at the competition.