Two Pittsburgh stations are jumping into the 4 p.m. news game in a move that’s at least partially triggered by two big upcoming changes in the syndication market.
WTAE, the Hearst owned ABC affiliate has already launched a 4 p.m. newscast, and WPXI, the Cox owned NBC one, is planning one for September 2021.
WTAE announced in early July 2021 it’s moving “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” off the 4 p.m. timeslot and replacing it with a newscast starting July 5, 2021.
The station has tapped Andrew Stockey and Kelly Sasso to anchor with meteorologist Jeff Verszyla providing weather.
Instead, “Ellen” will air at 3 p.m., which, in turn, triggers a 10 a.m. airtime for “Tamron Hall” and, since there are only so many hours on the schedule to fill, “Dr. Oz” is getting shuffled off to 1:05 a.m.
“Ellen” has historically underperformed in Pittsburgh and the show has seen nationwide ratings dips following a toxic workplace scandal. DeGeneres has announced the upcoming 2021-2022 season will be her last.
Not only does WTAE hope to give its 5 p.m. and later newscasts a better lead in (with its own programming), though now the 4 p.m. show arguably still has the same lead in problem as the 5 did.
In many markets, “Ellen” is being replaced after its run by “The Kelly Clarkson Show” (the two shows often air on the same station thanks to their shared NBCUniversal lineage) but in Pittsburgh, WPXI airs “Kelly” while WTAE has “Ellen,” so it’s likely WTAE will need to find something else to fill that hour after the next season.
WPXI, meanwhile, will drop “Judge Judy” at 4 p.m. in the fall of 2021 (which is ending production on original episodes but offering stations two years of repeats) and add its own newscast, fronted by former KDKA and WTAE anchor Susan Koeppen — whose hire will mean she’s will now have worked at all three of the market’s major network affiliated stations.
She most recently was seen on KDKA, but was laid off as part of cost cutting moves. WPXI’s 4 p.m. newscast debuts Sept. 13, 2021.
“Judy” is a consistent afternoon favorite on the schedule and many stations find it works well as a strong lead in to their local news blocks, grabbing eyeballs by jumping in with teases right as the show’s credits are rolling.
KDKA, the market’s CBS owned station, has aired a 4 p.m. newscast without any competition for nearly two decades and will suddenly find itself up against not one but two new newscasts.
KDKA has been a strong player in the market for years, typically winning most slots in total viewers, but WPXI has made improvements in the key demos in recent ratings periods.