Sunday, April 22, 2018
TV and Media

WFLA-Ch. 8 will debut 7 p.m. newscast July 30

A dozen years after they first gave it a try, officials at Tampa NBC station WFLA-Ch. 8 say they will debut a half-hour, 7 p.m. newscast on July 30.

Reporter/anchor Jennifer Leigh will lead the show, paired with a yet-unnamed co-anchor. Some employees at WFLA found about the show when a job opening was posted on the website of station owner Media General.

"We're producing a newscast for people who haven't seen a local newscast all day," said Don North, news director at WFLA, noting that many potential viewers arrive at home after 6:30 p.m. "It's a potentially good-sized audience, and we want to get there first."

North said the huge audiences expected for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics from London will give the show a good launching pad.

But even though the coming November elections ensure the 7 p.m. newscast will get lots of advertising revenue from political spots — candidates prefer to place such messages in newscasts, where likely voters congregate — North assured the broadcast would last beyond the year's election cycle.

The new show will also kick off other movement in WFLA's broadcast schedule: syndicated show Entertainment Tonight moves to 7:30 p.m.; the station's midday newscast moves to 10 a.m.; syndicated show Extra goes to 10:30 a.m. and morning talk show Daytime airs at 11 a.m.

The 9 a.m. hour of the Today show should offer a better lead-in audience for their midday newscast, North said.

The 7 p.m. newscast will have little direct competition; outside of local 24-hour cable newschannel Bay News 9, rivals air syndicated shows such as Wheel of Fortune, Inside Edition and Big Bang Theory.

Back in 2000, WFLA created a 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscast for the then-Pax TV affiliate WXPX-Ch. 66, which now airs the Ion Television network.

That Pax newscast was largely a rehash of the material from WFLA newscasts at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. But North insisted the new show will offer a unique rundown of all the day's events.

The spate of hiring required — including a new photographer and producer in addition to the co-anchor — stands in contrast to the rounds of layoffs Media General has implemented in recent years at WFLA and sister publication the Tampa Tribune.

"It's something lots of stations are juggling; deciding whether to spend money on syndicated shows or new programs," North said. "We're focused on producing local programming we control."

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