If WPXI's morning anchor team looks sleepy next week, there's good reason. Beginning Tuesday, Channel 11 will move up the start of its morning news from 5 to 4:30 a.m. weekdays -- making WPXI the first local station to have a regularly-scheduled newscast starting before 5 a.m.
Morning has been the one reliable growth area in local news for the past decade. In April, WPXI shifted the start time for its Sunday morning news from 7 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Pittsburgh's morning news ratings have grown more competitive in recent months as KDKA has begun to stir from its perpetual cellar-dweller position (more on ratings in the June 4 Tuned In column).
"There's an audience out there that we believe is looking for news, weather and traffic at 4:30 in the morning," said WPXI news director Mike Goldrick. "It's amazing to me how many people are watching that early in the morning. So we're giving people what they want."
Newscasts in other markets have also been moving to 4:30 a.m. In recent months, stations in Minneapolis, Boston and Los Angeles all moved to the earlier news start time.
Mr. Goldrick said WPXI executives have been discussing an earlier start time since January when NBC made "Early Today" available earlier, at 4 a.m., for stations wanting to add local news at 4:30. He said the station will add an additional producer for the earlier broadcast start time.
Channel 11's anchors won't be on the air more than before though. The one-hour live broadcast on PCNC at 7 a.m. will shrink to a half-hour that will repeat at 7:30 a.m. beginning Tuesday.
Earlier this week before WPXI's announcement, executives at rival stations KDKA and WTAE said they are watching results from other markets and evaluating the prospects of adding earlier news, but neither station had immediate plans to expand its morning newscast.
TV editor Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1112.