Q: Why do Channels 4 and 11 have their news anchors deliver the full sports reports from time to time?
I was a sportscaster for WBRZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge, from 1981-93. Back in our day, sportscasters never did news, and news anchors and reporters never did sports. It was a matter of maintaining credibility. Our news director insisted that sports guys do sports, news people do news and the two never intersect. He believed that a station would lose credibility if the two combined, and I agreed with him then and agree even more these days.
We both know the issue is money. I guarantee you the local stations are making a ton of money with all their newscasts. Why they can’t hire another sportscaster is beyond me.
– Bruce, Indiana, Pa.
Rob: Money is at the root of many decisions in local TV news, as Bruce suggests, but staffing decisions can also be about how and where the station wants to deploy its resources.
I’m not bothered by news anchors reading sports copy particularly – not sure I see a credibility issue – but it does make a station look cheap and uninterested in investing in sports coverage, which, in a town like Pittsburgh, does not seem like a smart message to send. Then again, the reason stations are doing this is because they can: Ratings and research likely show less viewer interest in sports in local TV newscasts because there are now so many other places online to get sports news. And let’s not forget that a lot of news about local teams that used to be confined to a sports report may now lead off a newscast.
News directors for WPXI-TV and WTAE-TV did not reply to a request for comment to Bruce’s query.
Q: Why don’t Channels 2 and 4 report on the local hometown girl, Aubrey Burchell, making it to “America’s Got Talent” semi-finals? It doesn’t seem like unbiased reporting to me, especially when they all report on local sports whether it’s on their own channel or not.
— Carl, Irwin
Rob: It’s somewhat a function of tradition but also viewer interest.
Local stations have covered local sports teams, which are longer-established than reality TV shows and have a broader reach. Local sports news, regardless of how it has been de-emphasized by some local stations, appeals to a much larger swath of the population.
Local TV stations have always had a bias toward their network affiliation — that is not new. Reality competitions are treated the same as scripted series, with network affiliates generally just offering reports about shows on their own respective networks.
Q: Actors I’ve enjoyed on Hallmark Channel are now starting to turn up on Lifetime. Does this mean the “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” series is now a thing of the past? The actress from “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” that I recently saw on Lifetime was Crystal Lowe. A favorite of ours on Hallmark was Kristoffer Polaha, and he also recently showed up on Lifetime.
— Bob, Simpsonville, S.C.
Rob: By and large actors are not under contract to any particular channel. They generally move from project to project and are under contract to one production at a time if they are making TV movies (it’s different with series) though networks may have options on some actors. (Options are a form of contract that typically advantages networks/studios.)
There has been some movement on this of late with upstart Hallmark rival Great American Family luring Candace Cameron Bure away from Hallmark with a deal to develop, produce and star in GAF programs and help curate programming for the network.
Hallmark Channel executives Wonya Lucas and Lisa Hamilton Daly addressed this during their portion of the Television Critics Association virtual summer 2022 press tour in August.
“We’ve kept a lot of our talent under options, say, for Christmas movies,” Daly said. “We’re looking for new talent all the time. I think there’s a lot of talent out there that we’ve worked with in the past that (GAF) is now working with, but I think that we also are constantly trying to evolve the talent pool that we’re working with. And we have, I think, retained almost everybody that we’re really excited to have.”
Kristoffer Polaha will star in a new Hallmark Christmas movie, “A Christmas Disconnect,” which was announced earlier this year.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” has always been a bit of an odd duck. It started as a series, then became an irregular movie series. I asked the pair about this title and also “Good Witch,” which started as movies, then became a series and could conceivably resume as a movie franchise.
“As far as ‘Good Witch,’ I think we’re always interested in thinking about what we can do with our most popular IP,” Daly said, referring to intellectual property. “I can’t announce anything specific about that. And that also holds for ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered.’ I don’t think we’re finished with that.”
“I would just say the Postables, who are the fans of ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered,’ they send a lot of letters,” Lucas said. “And we read them. The fandom and the passion for that franchise is unusual. And so we listen, we hear. There’s more to come.”
“I’d say, stand by,” Daly added.