More news: WDAY, Valley News Live expand broadcasts in response to changing demands

FARGO-There's more news than ever on local TV airwaves, and it's about to get even newsier.WDAY will launch the metro's first 4 p.m. weekday broadcast Monday, Sept. 11. The extra 30 minutes will give the ABC affiliate more time to air regional an...
Amy Unrau anchors a practice run of a 4 p.m. broadcast Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at WDAY Television, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO-There's more news than ever on local TV airwaves, and it's about to get even newsier.

WDAY will launch the metro's first 4 p.m. weekday broadcast Monday, Sept. 11. The extra 30 minutes will give the ABC affiliate more time to air regional and national stories that might not make the cut for its evening broadcasts, according to News Director Jeff Nelson.

But it's also a way to be available for a segmented modern audience.

"With everybody being as busy as they are, we have to be able to provide news to the people when they're able to see it," he said.

WDAY isn't the only one responding to this. Beginning Monday, Valley News Live will expand its Valley Today morning program by 30 minutes, airing 4:30 to 7 a.m. on KVLY and KXJB and 7 to 8 a.m. on The CW.

News Director Ike Walker said the outlet has "dramatically" expanded its schedule since he started in 2012. It previously added the one-hour North Dakota Today show on KVLY and gave an earlier start to its Valley Today show.

Both WDAY and Valley News Live also added 9 p.m. weekday broadcasts about a year ago, airing on digital substation WDAY'Z XTRA and The CW, respectively. WDAY is owned by Forum Communications Co., which also owns The Forum.

Local Fox affiliate KVRR, too, has adjusted its schedule, launching a weekday morning show last fall that airs 7 to 9 a.m.

While on-air broadcasts remain "critical," according to KVRR News Director Joe Radske, local stations here and across the country have simultaneously built up digital presences, offering updates on morning shows, evening broadcasts, social media and website posts and on-demand streaming.

Growing hunger

One of the most obvious signs of the changing TV landscape is the skyrocketing time outlets now devote to local programming.

KVRR's weekday lineup has a two-hour morning show, a 30-minute 6 p.m. newscast and an hourlong 9 p.m. newscast, adding up to three and a half hours each day. It also has hourlong broadcasts at 9 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday, giving the station a weekly total of 19.5 hours of coverage.

WDAY and Grand Forks sister station WDAZ will have 29.5 hours of weekly programming starting next week. Its weekday lineup includes First News from 5 to 7 a.m., the new 4 p.m. broadcast, a WDAY broadcast at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. and a WDAY'Z XTRA substation show at 9 p.m.

It also has separately produced weekday news that airs at 6 and 10 p.m. on WDAZ, while its weekend lineup includes First News at 7 a.m. Saturdays followed by Agweek TV at 8:30 a.m., 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on Saturdays followed by a sports show at 10:35 p.m. and newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. Sundays.

Valley News Live is now up to eight hours of local programming each weekday, including three and a half hours of the Valley Today morning show, North Dakota Today at 9 a.m., news broadcasts on either KXJB or KVLY at noon, 5, 5:30, 6 and 10 p.m., Point of View With Chris Berg at 6:30 p.m. and a 9 p.m. broadcast on The CW.

On weekends, Valley News Live broadcasts on KVLY, KXJB or The CW at 6, 9 and 10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 and 10 p.m. Sundays, giving the outlet a weekly programming total of 42.5 hours.

Walker said morning shows are getting the biggest viewership gains, which is why there's been so much expansion in early timeslots across the country.

A Pew Research Center report in July said local TV news gets more viewers on average than national and network news, but local affiliates' late-night newscast audiences have declined 31 percent since 2007. The local morning show audience is down 12 percent, according to the report, and early evening shows have seen a 19 percent drop.

Walker said the competition isn't other stations in the market anymore-it's people's time, a precious and increasingly "fractured" commodity.

"There's less and less of it that they have to devote towards even just sometimes day-to-day things, so we want to make sure that we're there when they do need us," he said.

That's why he said Valley News Live operates in a 24/7 news cycle with its on-air broadcasts and online posts and reporting.

Radske said expanding programming also makes financial sense. Syndicated programming can cost thousands of dollars to air, he said, and more local broadcast time means more time to sell local ads.

Nelson said local news is changing to meet the demands of a "content-hungry society," but the overall work remains the same.

"Our mission is to provide the viewing public with the information that they need, provide the viewing public with information that they want and to keep our viewers informed of what is happening not only here locally, but regionally, nationally and worldwide," he said.