I have covered so far two news departments that have launched on its own while this blog has been active, WEVV and WFXR. And soon, a third…
Starting in April of 2016, WZDX 54 will launch its own news department. The news department will be solely independent from WAAY 31 (ABC), which currently produces WZDX 54’s half-hour nightly newscast at 9:00 p.m. called The FOX 54 – 9:00 O’Clock News. Once the news department launches in April, the show will be expanded to an hour, 7 nights a week.
This is all due to Nexstar buying WZDX 54 from now-defunct Grant Broadcasting last year. Nexstar plans to put $3.3 million into WZDX 54 by remodeling its broadcast facilities and hire 20 news and production people to support its own produced newscasts and content for its website. Plus, WZDX 54 will get a new set, HD cameras and a production facility, upgrade overall news reporting capabilities, new weather forecasting equipment and renovated offices.
WZDX 54 has had a primetime newscast since 2007 when it was produced by INN: The Independent News Network. In 2009, the agreement was terminated and then started a new agreement with WAAY 31 to provide a locally-produced program at 9:00 p.m., since the INN newscast was produced out of Davenport, IA. WZDX 54 has some separate news anchors and a meteorologist and are expected to be transferred over to the new news department once it launches.
Nexstar Broadcast Group’s Executive VP and Co-Chief Operating Officer, Tim Busch, in statement obtained by WZDX 54:
“Live, local television news connects our viewers to their communities and provides viewers with a reliable source of essential information and in-depth coverage of breaking news events, weather, investigative reporting and compelling local stories. We are proud to serve our local viewers with critical information and take this responsibility very seriously. Nexstar’s significant investment in its Huntsville television and news operations will bring local viewers enhanced local news programming and event coverage from our new state-of-the-art Huntsville facilities. The expansion of WZDX-TV’s 9:00 p.m. primetime news programming to a full hour Monday through Sunday, combined with the 24/7 support of our digital content delivery through RocketCityNow.com will give viewers and users access to the most relevant and compelling local news in the marketplace. Nexstar’s unwavering dedication to provide superior local content while delivering an enhanced marketing platform for local businesses and advertisers are key components of our long-term success and we remain committed to delivering exceptional local programming and marketing services in Huntsville and the surrounding communities.”
Mark Overstreet, VP and GM of WZDX 54:
“Nexstar and our Huntsville station operations are dedicated to supporting the evolving needs and interests of our local viewing communities, hometown businesses, and public organizations. Localism is our top priority and the expansion of WZDX-TV’s local news programming on-air and online at RocketCityNow.com will provide Northern Alabama viewers with more local news content where, when, and how they want it. With the upcoming opening of our fully remodeled full high definition (HD) broadcast and digital facilities, we will simultaneously raise our commitment to local viewers and advertisers with enhanced content production, marketing opportunities and an overall improved viewing experience for the community at large.”
WZDX 54 will continue to air the WAAY 31-produced nightly half-hour 9:00 p.m. newscast until WZDX 54 launches its own news department on Monday April 4th, 2016 from 9:00-10:00 p.m.
This is some exciting news in Northern Alabama, indeed. Congratulations to WZDX 54 and to Nexstar on this move.