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Sacramento TV Station Gets OK to Test Early Prime Time

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday gave permission to NBC’s Sacramento affiliate to advance its prime-time viewing schedule one hour to capture a greater audience for its late-night news program.

By unanimous vote, the FCC agreed to let station KCRA move its network-supplied prime-time schedule to 7-10 p.m. for an 8 1/2-month experiment that will begin Sept. 16.

The ruling makes KCRA the first West Coast network affiliate to test the belief that some viewers want to begin watching evening television earlier in the night and will be more likely to stay up for the station’s own late-night news show if it begins at 10 p.m. rather than an hour later.

“We are very excited and pleased that we can finally test this concept,” KCRA General Manager John Kueneke said. “We believe it makes sense to move the programming to where the viewers are. And in our market we think viewers will respond to a 7-10 p.m. prime time.”

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Kueneke conceded that the major reason for the shift is to provide a larger audience for the station’s late-night news show so it can become an even bigger money maker for KCRA. He said preliminary surveys indicate that the television-viewing audience in Sacramento is 50% larger at 10 p.m. than an hour later because residents are going to bed and rising earlier than they have in the past.

However, Kueneke said NBC affiliates in some other West Coast cities, notably Los Angeles, have not noticed a similar shift in viewer habits and are uninterested in changing their prime-time schedules.

NBC, which has traditionally opposed shifting its prime-time schedule hours for fear of losing audience loyalty, has already agreed to the KCRA experiment. Affiliates of all three major networks in the Central and Mountain time zones have traditionally run their prime-time programming from 7-10 p.m. with no adverse effects on ratings.


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