WTAP Stations Go to 24 Hour Programming

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Changes Take Effect on Mon., Jan. 19

For a number of years, WTAP has been one of the only TV channels in this area that "signs off" at night and "signs on" each morning.

Effective Jan. 19 we will re-join the ranks of the all-nighters.

On that date, we will once again have programming on all three of our stations around the clock.

On our NBC and FOX stations, we will have Jewelry TV on in the overnight hours. It's a shopping channel that sells -- you guessed it! -- all sorts of jewelry.

On our MyNetwork station (which we call My5) we will have a new, in-house-created, overnight weather channel. My5 is available on CAS and Suddenlink Cable on channel 5 and is available free, over-the-air on digital channel 15.3.

Most cable networks have programming 24 hours a day. There's been a reason we have not followed the pack.

WTAP sells advertising based upon the actual size of its viewing audience at any given time. The number of people watching an individual channel between 2am and 5am is usually very small. Since we couldn't set a fair rate on overnight advertising that would offset the cost of having a person in Master Control during those hours ... and ... we didn't think it would be fair to our advertisers to jack-up the rates for advertising in other dayparts to help support a non-profitable overnight venture, we signed off.

In the "olden days," all TV stations signed off at night. Then came cable and the automatically-operating channels that were run by computers that could stay on all night with no one "minding the store" in Master Control.

For a while in the mid-1990s, WTAP's NBC station stayed on 24 hours a day, when NBC offered an overnight newscast out of Charlotte, NC, that repeated each half hour. When NBC stopped offering that newscast, we once again ceased programming each night and resumed each morning.

Our new My5 overnight weather channel was created by our Production Manager and I-T guru, Larry White, along with Broadcast Engineer Kevin Buskirk.

The two of them came up with the idea when they realized that there are a lot of people who get WTAP over the air, who do NOT have access to round-the-clock weather information like that provided by The Weather Channel.

So they started looking for ways to take the National Weather Service data that we receive, use our weather computer tools that sit idle overnight, and combine these into a system that runs automatically. They also used some creativity to work in the logos of some long-time WTAP advertisers, our "ticker" system that runs news headlines across the screen, and even school closings and delays! And it all happens automatically. No one has to do anything for it to operate in the middle of the night.

Their concept is to eventually make this a fourth full-time TV station that runs from WTAP, 24 hours a day. But that will require some technical modifications to our over-the-air signal before that can happen.

I am in awe of the work that Larry and Kevin have done to create this new service for our viewers, virtually out of thin air and their imaginations.

We hope it will be useful to those night-owls and early-risers who are looking for local radar, forecasts, national and international news, and school closings.

Oh, and if you ever see any advertisements on this channel in the middle of the night, you can bet the price on that advertising will fairly reflect the size of the real viewing audience, and not a penny more. That's only fair, don't you think?

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