As of mid-September, there will be one less Utah television station carrying a local newscast.
After nearly 11 months on the air, the KSL-produced Eyewitness News at 9 on KXIV-Ch. 14 will "finally give up the ghost" after its Sept. 18 broadcast, said KSL news director Lee Roderick.The cancellation comes because the program never attracted much of an audience. In the three ratings books since the newscast debuted, the 9 p.m. broadcast attracted only 1 ratings and 2 shares - about 5,000 homes.
The ratings "really didn't do what we'd hoped," Roderick said.
Despite the low viewership, KSL maintains that producing the newscast was not a financial liability.
"We never lost money on it. It made money right out of the gate," Roderick said.
He did, however, admit that the 9 p.m. broadcast was not particularly lucrative.
"We didn't make a lot, but it was more than the resources we're putting into it," Roderick said.
KSL and KXIV launched the Eyewitness News at 9 on Channel 14 amid a good deal of hoopla on Oct. 21 of last year. KSL was looking for a way to bring in additional revenue with its successful news operation, and KXIV gained a local news presence without the huge expense of starting up such an operation.
The KSL-KXIV partnership was patterned after several similar experiments on the East and West coasts but was the first in which a network affiliate in the Mountain Time Zone produced a 9 p.m. newscast that aired on a competitor's channel.
The move was also seen as an attempt to blunt the impact of KSTU's Fox News at 9. Although Ch. 13's 9 p.m. newscast had been announced months before the KSL-KXIV effort, it didn't get on the air until Dec. 31, 1991.
At the time of the KSL-KXIV announcement, KSTU publicly welcomed the competition. But, privately, the Fox-owned station executives were concerned.
Not surprisingly, KSTU executives are now expressing regret that the KSL/KXIV newscast has failed.
"That's too bad," said KSTU news director Dick Tuininga. "I kind of liked the fact that we had two stations doing a 9 p.m. newscast, offering news in an alternative time period."
KSTU's newscast showed considerable improvement between the February and May ratings books, doubling from 2 to 4. But that's much lower than the 11 rating reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" garnered in that time period in November '91.
And the question of whether Utah viewers are interested in a 9 p.m. newscast is still open.
"That's really early to be watching news," Roderick said. "It's such a long-entrenched habit to watch the news at 10."
Other stations around the country have found success by airing a newscast in the last hour of prime time, but those successes have, for the most part, come in the Eastern and Pacific Time Zones where 10 p.m. news is the alternative to 11 p.m. news.
The Eyewitness News at 9 on 14 was also hampered by the weakness of KXIV's signal. Operating on UHF channel 14, KXIV's signal is difficult to receive in some parts of the Salt Lake Valley itself, and its reach beyond the valley is minimal.
KXIV has already made plans to broadcast reruns of "Wiseguy" weeknights at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 21. And KSL, which recently introduced a Saturday morning newscast, hasn't given up on the idea of offering alternative news programming.
"We have other things on the drawing board," Roderick said.