Lexington television viewers will soon have another choice for local news. NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18) announced Wednesday it will launch a half-hour weekday newscast at 7 p.m. beginning Aug. 2.
"We always felt there was a missed opportunity with viewers who get home late," said WLEX News Director Bruce Carter.
As part of the launch, the station will hire nine employees, boosting its news staff to around 60, he said. The employees to be hired include a news anchor, meteorologist, two reporters, two photographers, a multimedia journalist who will both report and shoot video, an editor and a producer.
"We want to make sure the 7 o'clock news is a successful show, and the only way to do that is to have lots of content," Carter said in explaining the numerous hires.
The new hires will mean a shuffle of some of the station's other anchors and meteorologists among the newscasts. Carter said he expects to have that finalized within a few weeks.
The 7 p.m. newscast will be anchored solely by Nancy Cox and will include weather from chief meteorologist Bill Meck. Carter said the decision for solo anchoring linked to the desire to be "very fast-paced on news."
The 7 p.m. newscast will be going up against the ratings powerhouse Wheel of Fortune on CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27). During May, Wheel of Fortune drew an average of 9 ratings points and a share of 22. That means 9 percent of total television households in a 40-county viewing area were watching the game show, and, more specifically, 22 percent of all households watching TV at that time were tuned in.
By contrast, Inside Edition, which airs in that time slot on WLEX, had an average of 5 ratings points and a share of 12.
Carter said Inside Edition will move to another time slot that has not yet been finalized.
The 7 p.m. newscast might not be the only such show added locally. Carter wouldn't address if the company plans to launch an additional newscast beyond the 7 p.m.
"There's nothing official on a 4 p.m. newscast," Carter said.
Robert Thomas, news director at rival WKYT, said that station is also in early discussions about what kind of programming would replace Oprah Winfrey once her talk show, which airs weekdays at 4, ends after this coming year.
"Those conversations and discussions have just begun," he said.