KXAN, Austin’s NBC television affiliate, is making a number of strategic moves as it kicks off the new TV season this week.
The station, which ranks at or near No. 1 in most competitive time slots in Central Texas, will debut a 4:30 p.m. newscast this Monday, is expanding its “Studio 512” lifestyle show and recently named a new anchor for its hour-long noon newscast, among other changes.
The moves are part of KXAN’s continued focus on providing more local content, said Eric Lassberg, general manager for KXAN and its sister stations, CW affiliate KNVA and MyNetworkTV affiliate KBVO.
“The primary thinking with us is that our commitment and focus needs to be all about local, serving the people of the greater Austin area local content,” he said. “We want to be the best local storytellers in the market. If you want to know what’s going on in your local community, then you should turn to KXAN or ‘Studio 512’ on the CW Austin because we are the best at telling the stories about your local village.”
Adding 4:30 p.m. news
First and foremost: Don’t freak out, “Jeopardy!” fans. You’ll still be able to see two episodes each day.
The new first-run “Jeopardy!” episodes that had been airing at 4:30 p.m. on KXAN will slide to 4 p.m. to make way for a new newscast fronted by the station’s evening news team: anchors Robert Hadlock and Sydney Benter and lead weather forecaster Jim Spencer.
The “Jeopardy!” reruns that had been running at 4 p.m. are being bumped over to sister station KNVA, airing at 5:30 p.m.
Like KXAN’s other evening newscasts, Lassberg said the new 4:30 p.m. broadcast will have a hard news focus.
“We see it as an expansion of our most-watched early evening news at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” Lassberg said. “The thought was to broaden the time offered for those who want more of the most popular news brand in Austin.”
‘Studio 512’ tweaks
Some viewers likely noticed KXAN recently ended its 7 a.m. newscasts on KNVA.
That’s only temporary, Lassberg said. Local programming will return Oct. 1 when a two-hour version of “Studio 512” – complete with local weather and traffic updates – takes over that spot.
Rosie Newberry, who most recently served as weekend evening meteorologist, will be the show’s new host, taking over for Amanda Tatom, who helped sign “Studio 512” on four years ago.
“Our thought was that later in the morning, viewers are looking for what they call ‘infotainment’-type content,” Lassberg said. “When you watch ‘Studio 512,’ you will see that the approach is to cover things and inform the viewers about the local community, but do so in a fun, entertaining and creative way.”
Newberry, who started at KXAN three years ago, said the new opportunity is a dream come true.
“I love everything lifestyle,” she said. “I’m always trying to improve my do-it-yourself skills and I’ve really gotten into baking, budgeting and decorating in the past few years. I want to find inspiration and encouragement to help people make the best out of living in lovely Central Texas.”
She says the new gig will allow her to share more of her personality with viewers.
“As a meteorologist, my personality has always taken a back seat to the information that I present,” she said. “I can’t wait to share my optimistic spirit and excitement for connecting people to the community.”
Newberry says she’ll miss forecasting but, more than that, she’ll miss her regular interactions with the other members of KXAN’s weather team.
“Jim Spencer, David Yeomans and Natalie Ferrari are the best teammates a person could ask for,” she said. “I’m so thankful we’ll still be in the same place, even if we’re now in separate departments.”
An hour-long version of “Studio 512” will continue to air at 11 a.m. on KXAN, leading into the station’s noon newscast.
New noon anchor
Speaking of the noon news, Amanda Dugan has taken over as anchor.
She replaces Kate Weidaw, who has moved on to the University of Texas to help educate the next generation of journalists.
Dugan, who has filled in as noon anchor in the past, will retain her morning traffic duties.
“I get to connect with our viewers in a whole new way,” she said. “Most likely they’re used to hearing me talk about something they don’t like very much – traffic. Overall I’m so excited to learn and grow in this new position.”
Dugan made her first local on-air appearance as the CW Austin Star – the station’s spokesperson. Since then, she’s steadily seen her role with KXAN and KNVA increase.
“I don’t think I ever imagined any of these opportunities would come my way,” she said. “It’s definitely been an interesting journey since my CW Star days and – I have to say – quite a fun ride to be on.”
Some other changes are also in the works.
Tom Miller, a former KVUE reporter, has returned to Austin to serve as KXAN’s weekend morning anchor, replacing Gigi Barnett, who has relocated out of state.
Miller most recently was at a station in Sacramento, Calif.
Meanwhile weekend evening anchor Erin Cargile, a 10-year veteran of the station, is shifting into a higher-profile role with KXAN’s investigative team.
A replacement for Cargile on the anchor desk is expected to be announced soon.
“My biggest hope for the future is that we continue to do big investigations that lead to positive change for the local people of this community,” Lassberg said. “The list is long of the big, award-winning investigations that we have done in the past that have resulted in laws being changes, taxpayer savings, etc. We have become a serious investigative unit and the largest TV station investigative unit in the state of Texas.”