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KBJR, Fox to bring 9 o'clock news option to Northland

DULUTH -- In this network TV wedding, it's something old, something news. Duluth's NBC affiliate, KBJR, which has been broadcasting in Duluth since 1954, and the city's Fox affiliate, KQDS, which has been broadcasting less than a year, have joine...

DULUTH -- In this network TV wedding, it's something old, something news.
Duluth's NBC affiliate, KBJR, which has been broadcasting in Duluth since 1954, and the city's Fox affiliate, KQDS, which has been broadcasting less than a year, have joined forces on a news venture, the companies announced Friday.
Ray Spellerberg, general manager at KQDS, and Robert J. Wilmers, general manager at KBJR (an Up North Newspaper Network news partner) both expressed enthusiasm for the project while discussing the details in an exclusive Up North Newspaper interview at KBJR's Canal Park facility Thursday.
The new program, called "News 6 on FOX21," will be a half-hour newscast produced at the KBJR studios, airing Monday through Friday on KQDS at 9 p.m. starting Oct. 2. The Northland's only prime-time local news broadcast, the program will feature KBJR news staff on air and the station's reporters for local news, while national news will come from the Fox network's national feeds.
What would prompt two competitors in the increasingly crowded Twin Ports television market to engage in joint programming?
Neither company would comment on financial details of the arrangement, but both had distinct goals to accomplish with the cooperative venture.
Spellerberg said KQDS has been "inundated" with requests from advertisers and viewers looking for news. "We look at this as a great opportunity to offer that service," he said.
Such alliances are not uncommon for the network. Spellerberg said of the 106 Fox affiliates broadcasting local news, 27 have partnered with other networks' affiliate stations to create a 9 p.m. show.
"We've got research that shows a 9 o'clock (show) is a popular option," Spellerberg said.
That time slot and Fox's unique market are the draw for KBJR, Wilmers said. "We know that there are a lot of people who don't watch late newscasts because it's too late," he said. "They're going to bed."
When asked about the competitive aspect of the relationship, Wilmers said sometimes business concerns transcend competition. "You can be a competitor, but at the same time work together to build your business," he said.
Spellerberg noted that KQDS chose to partner with KBJR because of the station's news resources, from its staff to its state-of-the-art digital broadcast facility.
"From a news standpoint, I know that they've made a huge investment in news," said Spellerberg.
The move will have some ramifications for Duluth. First, it will bring new national coverage from the Fox network, previously unavailable for broadcast viewers.
There may also be changes to KBJR staff. Wilmers, acknowledging that the additional broadcast will place additional demands on staff, said more staff would be added, although he declined to specify when the changes would be made or how many positions might be added.
Finally, while the KBJR newscasts will remain the same, the new show will have a "Fox accent," while still maintaining the "News 6 soul" as Wilmers put it in a press release announcing the move.
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Details have not been completed, but the Fox accent will infuse the show, with changes including customized graphics and news angles and story choices geared toward KQDS's younger audience, said Wilmers. (Spellerberg describes existing Fox programming as "edgier" and "innovative.")
KBJR broadcasts on Channel 6 and is found at Channel 5 on local Charter Communications cable systems. KQDS broadcasts on Channel 21 (Channel 11 on cable).

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