WJLA moves up morning newscast
Months after three local Washington stations debuted 4:30 a.m. newscasts, WJLA is joining the super-early news party, the ABC affiliate announced Thursday.
"Good Morning Washington" will start at 4:30 a.m. beginning Monday, with "GMW" newscaster Alison Starling in the anchor seat.
"Basically, we want to serve the early risers," station manager Bill Lord said. "When you look at how many people are awake and watching television that time of day, it is shocking."
The move comes as no surprise to the other three stations, all of whom launched 4:30 a.m. newscasts in March: The CBS affiliate WUSA moved to 4:25 a.m.; Fox's WTTG and NBC's WRC moved to 4:30 a.m. just weeks afterward.
All three stations saw time-slot increases in the May "sweeps" ratings among predawn viewers, and the numbers have remained higher: Last week, WRC averaged 35,300 viewers for "News4 Today," compared with the 18,400 watching at the same time last year.
WUSA's "9News Now" garnered 30,300 viewers as opposed to 18,800 for the same week in 2009. "Fox 5 Morning News" had 17,800 viewers -- a slight increase over 17,500 the same week last year who were watching "Cops" at 4:30 a.m.
Lord said that the Allbritton-owned WJLA has wanted to launch an earlier newscast "for, literally, years," but that contract issues with ABC previously prevented the move.
WJLA now airs "America This Morning" at that hour -- an ABC network news program that offers a mix of business, weather and sports programming and averages about 16,700 viewers. Lord said the half-hour show, anchored by Vinita Nair and Rob Nelson, will move to 4 a.m.
The early-morning news trend is a "good thing," Lord said.
He added, "I think particularly in a city that has long commutes, and federal workers out there with flexible hours, we're finding people out there to watch."