WTVQ aims for 10 o'clock news crowd

Lexington's ABC affiliate plans to launch a new channel and begin a 10 p.m. local newscast in January to compete directly with the highly successful Fox 56 newscast.

WTVQ, last place in local news ratings, also plans to re-air some of its newscasts from its ABC channel on the new MyNetworkTV channel. The move is possible because TV stations now transmit multiple channels using digital technology.

WTVQ will launch the channel Jan. 1, adding it to its current ABC and 24/7 local weather channels.

"We're building a new TV station essentially from scratch," said WTVQ General Manager Chris Aldridge.

The station has been airing MyNetworkTV shows since November from 8 to 10 p.m. on its weather channel. That channel, 36.2, will become the MyNetworkTV channel, with local news. The weather channel will become 36.3.

The 36.2 channel is available over the air to those with digital tuners and on Insight's digital cable lineup. Aldridge said the station is in negotiations with Insight to add it to its main cable lineup.

Aldridge said launching the half-hour 10 p.m. newscast is "a great opportunity for us to extend our brand and give people the choice of a second 10 o'clock news."

He also noted how successful Fox affiliate WDKY, which has a full hour of local news, has been in the time slot.

WDKY General Manager Michael Brickey was "shocked" that WTVQ would add a 10 p.m. newscast, because it cut its 5 p.m. newscast on ABC earlier this year.

But Aldridge said the station considers it to be news on a "totally different station," plus the number of television viewers is significantly higher at 10 p.m. than at 5 p.m.

The strength of the Fox newscast is nationally known. Earlier this year, it was ranked eighth in terms of viewership for all Fox affiliate newscasts in the country, Brickey said.

"And in many ratings periods, it is the highest-rated late evening news in this market. Period," said Robert Thomas, news director at CBS affiliate WKYT-27, which produces the news.

More people are watching TV at 10 p.m. than at 11 p.m., and WDKY currently is the only choice for local news at 10.

"As far as welcoming the competition, I don't really consider it competition because we're so strong," Brickey said.

Anchoring the 10 p.m. newscast will be WTVQ's evening female anchor Megan Skaggs, while male anchor Tom Kenny is off air "polishing up the 11 o'clock scripts and show," Aldridge said.

Skaggs is a good fit, Aldridge said, because "MyNetworkTV is both younger-skewing and also more male-oriented."

WTVQ will simulcast its local morning news on the channel from 5 to 7 a.m. and re-air its noon and 6 p.m. newscasts a half-hour later. And it will show its 11 p.m. news on the channel at midnight.

Aldridge said he's not concerned those will dilute the main broadcasts' ratings, because he's targeting people who are watching other shows during the main times.

MyNetworkTV and syndicated programming will fill out the rest of the schedule.