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.

Presented by

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

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's outrageous what's on TV. It looks like that man is in charge of the country."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in Business

Just In