In a move that appears to be part of a growing national trend, Baltimore’s WBFF is scaling back sports coverage during its late newscasts.
The Sinclair-owned Fox-affiliate is going to experiment with dropping its 15-minute “Sports Unlimited” segment and offer a shortened sports report instead, according to The Baltimore Sun.
“Our research indicates that local viewers watch local sports programming less than they did 15 or 20 years ago,” WBFF general manager Bill Fanshawe told the Sun‘s David Zurawik.
WBFF has regularly run “Sports Unlimited” at the end of its weeknight newscasts, from 10:45 to 11 p.m. Now the station will try offering a relatively short sports report within the body of its 10 p.m. newscast–similar to what many stations currently do.
While WBFF is far from cutting sports coverage altogether, the station’s current experiment is yet another sign of a national reevaluation of the value of local sports to a newscast.
Earlier this year, New York’s WPIX cut its sports department and now has news anchors narrate a couple of highlights at the end of the 10 p.m. newscast. And in sports-mad Dallas, KDAF is now relying on two MMJs to cover local sports.
“What’s basically happening around the country now is what happened with us three years ago,” WMAR general manager Bill Hooper told Zurawik. “We had Scott Garceau and he’s been here a million years, and we love Scott… But when his contract came up, it was an opportunity to say, ‘You know what? This is the time. Why are we going to do another three-year deal?’ And that’s what other stations are doing. They’re not firing people, but when the contract comes up, they say, ‘OK, this is a high-priced guy and we’re only giving him a minute and half at the end of the newscast, so what are we doing here anyway?’”