Shake up at WKMG: Layoffs, newscasts shuffled

Thursday was a sad day for those at WKMG-Local 6.

Hit hard by the sagging revenue and sagging ratings, the CBS affiliate reportedly laid off 20 staffers and canceled its 4, 5 and 5:30 newscasts. Starting Monday, WKMG will air Dr. Phil from 5 to 6 p.m. and an hourlong newscast from 6 to 7 p.m. The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric moves to 7 p.m. from 6:30.

If this lineup sounds familiar to TV observers, that’s because it’s the forumla used at Post-Newsweek sister station WPLG-ABC 10 in Miami and at Gannett’s WTSP-CBS 10 in Tampa. Both stations moved Dr. Phil to 5 p.m. to compete against rivals’ local newscasts, and both saw bumps in ratings for their 6 p.m. newscasts — a feat Local 6 hopes to repeat. But it may not be so easy.

Just last week, WTSP announced plans to move Dr. Phil to 7 p.m. and go back to having local news in 5 p.m. hour. The reason? As TampaBay.com blogger Eric Deggans explained, “When they first began airing the show at 5 p.m. against local newscasts, it was an inspired move. Viewers flocked to the only big network affiliate that wasn’t offering local news in the time period and Dr. Phil McGraw’s mystique as a star disciple of Oprah was probably convincing more than a few of her viewers on WFLA-Ch. 8’s 4 p.m. show to switch over to Dr. Phil at 5 p.m. But recently Dr. Phil has begun to sag in the ratings as the show’s novelty has worn off and McGraw has increasingly turned to tabloid subjects.”

But back to WKMG. Sentinel blogger Hal Boedeker says among those who lost jobs on Thursday at third-ranked WKMG were Adam Longo, Kimberly Houk and Tiffany Tift.

WKMG GM Skip Valet wouldn’t confirm how many people lost their jobs at the station on Thursday. “Every department had some staff reductions,” he told Boedeker. He also said the reductions were “excpected.” He said, “People paying attention to what’s happening in our business — it doesn’t shock them.”

I — and I suspect others — will have to disagree with Valet on that statement.