Beginning Sept. 12, Lexington CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27) will launch a new half-hour newscast at 10 a.m.
It's the first such mid-morning newscast in the market, which has seen 4 and 7 p.m. options added for viewers in the past year by NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18).
The addition prompts the question of whether Lexington makes enough news for what will be a total of 18½ hours of locally produced content on weekdays among the city's television stations.
For WKYT, its managers say, planning for its additional newscast has been under way since Oprah Winfrey announced nearly two years ago that her longtime talk show would end this year.
Many stations around the country have chosen to launch newscasts in Winfrey's old time slot. It's often in their best interest financially because they control all advertising time on locally produced shows and don't have to pay for the syndicated programming.
In WKYT's case, the station chose a new talk show by Anderson Cooper to fill Winfrey's 4 p.m. time slot with the idea that Cooper's news background would make a good lead-in to the station's evening newscasts. But that didn't stop the brainstorming for another time slot for news.
"We do very well at noon, and we've constantly improved in show growth in the mornings, so we're wanting to bridge those time periods," said WKYT news director Robert Thomas.
The half-hour newscast will be anchored by noon anchors Bill Bryant and Barbara Bailey, and morning and noon meteorologist Todd Borek.
With the extra half-hour, WKYT's news department will produce 7½ hours of news daily, including the one-hour shows it produces at 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. for Fox affiliate WDKY (Channel 56).
WLEX produces six hours, including its new half-hour newscasts at 4 and 7 p.m., and ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36) produces five hours, which includes a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast on its MyNetworkTV subchannel.
Although 18½ hours on weekdays might seem to be a lot of news options, it compares well to TV markets of similar size, such as Knoxville, where stations produce 19 hours of local news. Knoxville is ranked by ratings provider Nielsen as the 59th-largest market in the nation with 557,040 television homes; the Lexington market, which includes a sizable portion of southern Kentucky, is ranked 63rd with 515,320 TV homes.
NBC affiliate WBIR in Knoxville produces nine hours of news on weekdays, including three hours for the city's Fox affiliate.
It doesn't have a mid-morning newscast, but WBIR produces a 4:30 a.m. newscast and one that's an hour long at 4 p.m.
"The non-traditional newscast changes over time, obviously," said WBIR News Director Bill Shory. "I can remember when I first started paying attention to the news that doing newscasts at 5 o'clock in the afternoon was revolutionary.
"People wondered what we would do with that much news. How would we fill it up?"
Shory said he often hears that question as the station continues to expand its news offerings.
"People say there's not enough going on in our town for that much news. I always bristle at that," he said. "When you look at towns the size of Knoxville and Lexington, maybe we don't have the shootings and car wrecks and spectacular crimes that a bigger city has, but that's not what we always want to be covering anyway."
Instead, the focus can shift, he said, to people and their workplaces, things they can do to keep their families safe and so forth.
"All of those things exist in any city," he said. "There's enough of that kind of content that you wouldn't ever run out of it."
WKYT is discussing this month how it will format the 10 a.m. news, Thomas said.
"That time period will allow us to do some things different," he said. "It very well will not be 100 percent news that you think of when you watch a newscast right now.
"It will capitalize on the strong personalities of both Bill and Barbara. We're looking for it to be the bridge from what Live! With Regis and Kelly is to what our noon news is."
The station also is adding more personnel for the newscast, including two reporters and three production workers. The first of the two reporters to be hired is Asbury University graduate Tim Johnston, who has worked the past three years as a reporter and weekend anchor at KRBC in Abilene, Texas.
Reach Scott Sloan at (859) 231-1447 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1447.