Local News, Live at 4:30 A.M.! (But Why?)

The economics of local news for early risers goes like this. It costs almost nothing to produce, draws more traffic than, say, M.A.S.H., earns more ad dollars than, say, M.A.S.H., and actually provides a nice bump for the 5:00 AM news hit. More power to the early bird!

Realistically, the number of 25-to-54-year-olds to be found at 4:30 a.m. is "minimal," said a TV station executive who preferred to remain anonymous because it was the most direct route to Candid. In November, for instance, 8 percent of 25-to-54-year-olds were using their TVs at 4:30 a.m. in Washington.

On the other hand, adding a 4:30 a.m. newscast costs practically nothing. The stations already had morning news staffs, on-air talent and equipment in place - they were busy at work on the 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. newscasts. The more news a station produces, the lower the overall cost of its news operation becomes.

"It's one of the more efficient things a station can do," said Allan Horlick, WUSA's general manager.

And, when a station airs a syndicated show, say "Cops" reruns, or a network-produced news program at 4:30 a.m., typically it has to turn over a large chunk of the advertising time available in the show to the company that has provided the program to the station.

But when a TV station airs a locally produced newscast at 4:30 a.m., it gets to sell all the ad time in the show. Ka-ching!

Read the full story at Washington Post.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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