CBS blows up West Coast morning news schedule at duopoly

By Michael P. Hill Article may include affiliate links

There’s a big change coming to the Los Angeles morning news scene, reports Variety.

CBS-owned stations KCBS and KCAL will reshuffle their AM schedules with a unique arrangement that appears to be a first in the industry.

The plan is for KCBS, which is the CBS station in the market, to start carrying the east coast edition of “CBS Mornings” from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. local time live from New York, where it’s 7 to 9 a.m.

KCAL, an independent station that already produces a solid evening block of local news, meanwhile, will begin producing local news from 4 to 11 a.m., the first time local morning news has appeared on its schedule.

“By launching morning news on KCAL 9 and adding a second daily broadcast of ‘CBS Mornings’ on CBS 2, our local-to-global news organization is perfectly positioned to showcase its premium content on our broadcast and streaming channels in the Los Angeles market,” said Wendy McMahon, president and co-head of CBS News and Stations in a statement. “As one of the most trusted local news providers in Southern California, the window of opportunity for KCAL 9 News in the morning is wide open. We also believe this is an audience growth opportunity for ‘CBS Mornings’ by giving early risers and commuters in the Los Angeles market the chance to watch live from 4:00 to 6:00 a.m.”

KCBS will then simulcast an hour of KCAL’s local news from 6 to 7 a.m. local time. Local content will also continue to air on CBS News Los Angeles, the station’s news streamer originally known as CBSN Los Angeles.

Following that, from 7 to 9 a.m. Pacific, KCBS will air the West Coast feed of “CBS Mornings.” This version typically contains much of the same content as the east coast feed, including segments recorded live to tape, but with updates made for breaking and developing news as needed.

This change means that KCBS will no longer produce local morning news directly for its channel, though the two stations largely share news operations and staffers.

This also means that KCBS will be airing “CBS Mornings” twice in the same market.

This appears to be a unique case of a big three station airing the network’s morning news show twice in favor of cutting back on local news.

Although not mentioned in the announcement, this strategy will also likely mean the station can count viewership from both airings of “Mornings” in Los Angeles toward the national totals, a strategy that all of the “big three” networks already use to goose the ratings of their signature evening newscasts by re-airing them in the early morning hours in areas where it owns a local station.

Even with the comparatively low viewership overnight, because of the markets tend to be larger metro areas, the cumulative addition of these viewers can help bolster numbers.

ABC World News Tonight” also gets more of a boost in the Los Angeles market on KABC by airing the east coast feed at 3:30 p.m. local time when it’s live on the east coast and again at 6:30 p.m., using the Western feed.

Los Angeles, like many major metro areas, is a competitive news market, with “Good Day LA” on Fox’s KTTV and “KTLA Morning News” already airing big blocks of local news in the mornings, in addition to the traditional “big three” approach of early morning to 7 a.m. local time at O&Os KABC and KNBC.

By launching its new seven-hour block of local morning news, KCAL appears to be aiming to build upon the momentum from its news-heavy schedule later in the day while while also essentially sharing costs with KCBS’s solo hour of local news.

KCBS will no longer have to pay to produce its own morning news, though those costs are essentially simply be shifted from one bucket to another — and overall costs are likely to rise a bit given the longer runtime on KCAL and the stations’ plans to add 16 staffers to support the expanded morning news.

Most of KCBS’s talent is expected to appear on KCAL when the new schedule takes effect sometime in the fall of 2022.

On many stations and networks that air large blocks of local news, select segments repeat throughout the morning barring any breaking news in order to both save on production costs and give anchors some breaks.

KCBS is also seeing another previously-announced schedule change in the fall, with a new 9 a.m. newscast debuting and the 30-minute version of “The Drew Barrymore Show” following that at 9:30 a.m. The second half of “Drew” is expected to be shown on KCAL.