WGME to ignite 10 p.m. news battle

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Portland station will join with Fox affiliate for nightly newscast

LEWISTON – Another local TV news show will soon be televised at 10 p.m.

Portland-based WGME 13 has come to an agreement with Fox 23, to supply the local Fox affiliate with a seven-nights-a-week newscast, beginning on Feb. 5.

“We’ll bring our same fast-paced, breaking news format to 10 p.m.,” said Robb Atkinson, news director for the CBS affiliate.

Besides, people are going to bed earlier than they once did, he said.

The teaming format – created through a news sharing agreement between the two stations – has already been done locally.

For more than a year, Portland’s WCSH 6 has joined with WPXT 51 to broadcast its own 10 p.m. newscast.

It bills itself as “Maine’s only 10 o’clock news.” No more.

“We plan to compete,” Atkinson said.

WGME 13 has built a new set for the newscast at the station’s Portland stage. Kiley Bennett, who has worked for WGME since 2002, will anchor on weeknights. Doug Ray, who joined the station in 1999, will lead on weekends.

With more work to do, the station’s news department will grow a little. Two new producers will be hired to help fill out the need for news.

The added show will last 35 minutes each night.

“At a time of shrinking budgets, we’re expanding,” Atkinson said. “I have a couple of extra warm bodies to cover the news.”

The news boss said he’s optimistic that viewers will come.

Such Fox shows as “American Idol,” “24” and “House” – all ratings-rich shows – will serve as lead-ins to the newscast. Hopefully, some of their large audiences will stick around for the news, he said.

He pointed to the overnight ratings from Tuesday night’s broadcast as one example. Nationally, the show drew 31 million viewers, according to the Web site, Zap2it.com.

“We’re going to be sampled by a huge audience,” Atkinson said.

In a joint release by both TV stations, WPFO General Manager Dirk Brinkerhoff echoed Atkinson.

“FOX 23 is excited about partnering with WGME and News 13 in our common goal to become the No. 1 10 p.m. news in the Portland market,” Brinkerhoff said.

WPFO-TV is privately owned by CMCG Portland License LLC and Max Media LLC.

WGME-TV is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which owns or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 36 markets.

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