Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stop The Insanity. Then Go Back to Sleep

Does New York Need Four Local 4:30 a.m. Newscasts? Does It Need Any?

New York TV stations will soon get to really find out just how many insomniacs, early risers, and stoners are out there, with word that WABC-TV, the Nielsen news king, will join the scrum jockeying for droopy eyelids with a newscast at 4:30 a.m.
Bear in mind that channels, 4, 5, and 11 are already squaring off at that unholy hour. The question is why.
The easy answer is that the infrastructure is already in place. The talent is already in the building. Just bring them in a half-hour earlier, recycle packages from the 11 p.m. cast, and, poof, instant show.
If you thought the anchors were too perky at 5 a.m., just wait.
Stations get to keep all the moola from spots sold. In contrast, channels 4 and 7--home of WABC--have to forego some of that with the network shows now on.
But how many people really are out there? I first encountered the 4:30 phenomenon in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, when I had to get up way early for a flight. KABC was chugging along. But out there, it's a tad more understandable. People commute from insane distances because it's otherwise too expensive. And those commutes start early and last a while.
I doubt, however, the number of denizens on the pre-dawn patrol is as large in New York. Granted, train lines have added more service before 6 a.m. to accommodate demand. But still. It's a small slice of TV pie, at that hour. Not to mention that WPIX, channel 11, will now bump up its start time to, wait for it, 4 a.m., which will give it a five-hour block of morning news and a lot of pissed-off staffers.
As for me, I'm fine with "Morning Edition" on NPR, thank you, eternally grateful that the stellar crew there wakes up in the middle of the night and I don't have to.

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