KUTV-Channel 2 is about to make a big change to its morning news lineup — a change the station really doesn't want to make.
For 25 years, Channel 2 has aired local news from 7 to 8 a.m., followed by a delayed telecast of the first hour of CBS' national morning-news show from 8 to 9 a.m. Beginning Monday, Sept. 3, “CBS This Morning” will air from 7 to 9 a.m. on KUTV; the station’s 7 a.m. local newscast will air exclusively on sister station KJZZ-Channel 14.
It’s a move that KUTV General Manager Kent Crawford fought. But CBS insisted on it as a condition of the station’s new 10-year affiliation agreement with the network.
(KJZZ is currently simulcasting KUTV’s local news from 6 to 8 a.m.; it has exclusively aired a third hour of KUTV’s local news from 8 to 9 a.m. for more than a year. And the second hour of “CBS This Morning” airs from 9 to 10 a.m. on sister station KMYU-Channel 12.)
Local news at 7 a.m. has worked well for KUTV — it has regularly beaten ABC’s “Good Morning America” on KTVX-Channel 4 and NBC’s “Today Show” on KSL-Channel 5 from 7 to 8 a.m.
The real competition at 7 a.m. has been between KUTV and FOX 13 — and KSTU has been particularly strong in the advertiser-friendly 25-to-54 age demographic, including finishing No. 1 in that demo in the July 2018 sweeps.
A quarter of a century ago, Channel 2′s then-general manager convinced the station’s then-owners — the CBS stations group — that allowing it to air local news at 7 a.m. was a good idea. And the owners persuaded their counterparts at the CBS broadcast network to go along with it.
That is not the way these things usually work. Networks are big on having their affiliates air their programs as scheduled.
Yes, networks and their affiliates are partners. But networks look out for themselves, and CBS told KUTV’s current owner, Sinclair, to make the change as a condition of their new deal.
KUTV had no choice. The station’s revenue would plummet — as would its value — if it lost the CBS affiliation.
The network is kicking in a bunch of money for a campaign that will blanket Utah with ads about the upcoming change. Moving the 7 a.m. local news to KJZZ is the smartest alternative.
And if you asked me to recommend a network morning-news show, I would, without hesitation, point you to “CBS This Morning.” It’s the newsiest and most watchable. And I say that despite the fact that Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson are saddled with Gayle King as their co-anchor.
Nobody really expects all those Channel 2 viewers to make the switch to Channel 14. For more than a year, KUTV anchors have been telling viewers to switch over to KJZZ at 7 a.m., but that telecast loses more than 90 percent of the 7 a.m. audience.
And nobody will be surprised if FOX 13 benefits from this — if viewers looking for local news at 7 a.m. don’t make it to Channel 14, but stop at Channel 13.
KUTV will also be adding an hour of local news from 4 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 3 — direct competition for local newscasts on Channels 4 and 13.
(“Ellen” will move up an hour to 3 p.m. on KUTV; “Family Feud” will switch over from KUTV to KMYU at 4 and 4:30 p.m.)
Talk shows and game shows are one thing; news shows are another. Viewers are creatures of habit, and a lot of viewers are in the habit of watching local news at 7 a.m. on Channel 2.
We’ll see how this goes.
Editor’s note • The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.