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KCOP halves ‘Real News’

KCOP will cut its 10-11 p.m. “Real News” to a half-hour and eliminate its weekend newscasts next month, but the indie is kicking around several ideas for a topical 10:30 p.m. news-oriented show that could debut this summer.

The Chris-Craft/United-owned station also is looking to expand into other dayparts wherethere is no head-to-head news competition.

The revamped half-hour newscast, which begins May 16, will still cover hard news and have in-depth reports. But it will not have asmuch filler, said KCOP general manager Rick Feldman, who described the new edition as a TV version of the all-news radio format, “You give us 22 minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

Feldman hopes to get the second half-hour on the air by August. A number of formats that would appeal to the station’s younger audience are under consideration, including entertainment, sports and satirical news.

KCOP will trim the weeknight news because it cannot steal away enough viewers from the other three entrenched independent newscasts. The station was the last major indie in Los Angeles to build up its news presence, launching its low-rated “Real News” a little more than a year ago.

Seeking to attract the younger audience that watches such lead-ins as “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” KCOP tried to make the newscast more visually appealing by having roving anchors and a more lively style than the other newscasts.

But the program has been mired in last place, attracting around a 2 rating in the February sweeps. Feldman said the research made it “painfully clear” that even viewers who liked “Real News” weren’t impressed enough to give up their regular choices.

Older viewers — the core of the news audience — migrated to first-place KTLA and KCAL-TV. Second-place KTTV, whose audience was about twice as large as KCOP’s in the most recent sweeps, split the younger aud.

The 18-34 crowd is more transitory than older viewers, with the ratings rising and falling based on the lead-in, Feldman said.

The only way KCOP believes it can compete in the hour is to have “something unique,” he noted.

Feldman and KCOP news director Jeff Wald Monday emphasized the steps the station is taking does not lessen its commitment to news. There are no plans to pare back the news staff or bid farewell to any on-air talent.

Wald described the moves as a “realignment,” with some weekday and weekend news staffers now focusing on the half-hour 10:30 p.m. show. The weekend staffers, including anchors Wendy Walsh and David Gonzales, will have “varying roles” in both the new project and the Monday-Friday news, which will continue to be anchored by Ross Becker and Ellen Leyva.

KCOP opted to scrap the poorly rated weekend newscasts because Wald believed the staffers could be put to better use working in a weekday rotation.

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