KCRA dumps early prime

With NBC threatening to end its 40-year relationship with Sacramento affiliate KCRA-TV, the Kelly Broadcasting-owned station Wednesday announced that it will return to an 8-11 p.m. primetime schedule Sept. 13.

The move ends a two-year experiment that made KCRA the first West Coast network affil to switch to a 7-10 p.m. primetime rotation.

Fellow Northern California NBC affil KRON-TV in San Francisco announced last week that it would also end its early primetime experiment in September, leaving Bay Area CBS affil KPIX-TV as the only West Coast broadcaster to stick with it (Daily Variety, Aug. 5).

KCRA, which intends to go to an hour reality block in access this fall with off-net episodes of MTM’s “Rescue 911” and Twentieth TV’s “Cops,” took the action despite market research findings from Frank Magid Associates showing 63% of respondents thought a 10 p.m. newscast was a good idea.

“We really didn’t have a lot of choice,” KCRA general manager John Serrao said late Wednesday afternoon after a week of meetings and negotiations. “NBC could have been parting company if we didn’t make a deal. Our relationship was going right down the tube.”

Although KCRA has finished first in primetime starting at 7 p.m., the third-place network waged a full-court press to convince the station to return to an 8-11 p.m. lineup, insisting the key selling demos weren’t quite good enough.

Despite NBC’s pressure tactics, Serrao said, “They’re not the enemy. Everyone has to do what they have to do. We still believe that there is room for a 10 p.m. newscast in the future … (but) we want to live to fight another day.”

In the meantime, KCRA is exploring the possibility of launching a 10 p.m. newscast on cable, according to Serrao.

KCRA averaged a 10-12 rating with its 10 p.m. news — the highest-rated nighttime news on the West Coast — but it still performed better when the news aired at 11 p.m. The affil averaged an 11-13 rating in the later hour.

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