WRAL / FOX 50 will add an additional hour of local news each weekday

Lena Tillett and Ken Smith will anchor the WRAL’s local news on FOX 50 each weekday morning from 9-10 a.m. starting June 3, 2019.
Lena Tillett and Ken Smith will anchor the WRAL’s local news on FOX 50 each weekday morning from 9-10 a.m. starting June 3, 2019. WRAL

WRAL-TV announced on Thursday that it is adding an additional hour of news each weekday morning on its FOX 50 sister station.

FOX 50 currently airs WRAL local news from 7-9 a.m. The additional hour, which takes them to 10 a.m., will start on June 3, and will be anchored by WRAL’s Ken Smith and Lena Tillett.

WRAL airs local news from 4:30 a.m.-7 a.m., and then switches to NBC’s “Today” show from 7 to 9 a.m. During that two-hour period, the station continues its newscast on FOX 50, but with different anchors. WRAL and Fox 50 are both owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The change means that Smith is leaving his usual weekend evening news anchor position on WRAL. Smith has been at WRAL since 1998.

Taking Smith’s place on weekends is Julian Grace, who joined WRAL in April from WISH-TV in Indianapolis. Grace, an Emmy, Edward R. Murrow and SPJ Award-winner, also worked as a reporter at KMOV-TV in St. Louis and at WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan. WRAL vice president and general manager Joel Davis said Grace will report three days a week and anchor on weekends. Grace is a native of Indianapolis, according to his WRAL bio, and is married with four children.

Tillett joined WRAL in August 2016 as an anchor/reporter for both WRAL and FOX 50.

The rest of the FOX 50 weekday morning anchor lineup remains unchanged: Tillett and Renee Chou anchor 7 to 8 a.m. and Tillett and Jeff Hogan anchor 8 to 9 a.m.

Right now, FOX 50 airs “Steve,” a one-hour Steve Harvey talk show, at 9 a.m., but Harvey’s show was recently canceled, with its final episode slated to air in late June. Variety reported that NBC owned-and-operated affiliates (a category which does not include privately owned WRAL or FOX 50) will air a Kelly Clarkson talk show in the place of “Steve.” Davis said both WRAL and FOX 50 will air “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” but no word yet on the timeslot.

More hours of local news than competitors

FOX 50’s additional hour gives CBC’s two stations a combined 5.5-hour news block each morning, and 10.5 hours total each weekday.

Local rivals, ABC11 (WTVD) and CBS17 (WNCN), also start their mornings at 4:30 a.m. and end when national news shows begin at 7 a.m. (“Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning,” respectively). ABC11 shows “Live with Kelly and Ryan” at 9 a.m. and CBS17 goes to “Judge Judy.”

WRAL, ABC11 and CBS17 all air a one-hour noon newscast.

WRAL and ABC11 go back on air at 4 p.m. with a local newscast, and CBS17 starts at 5 p.m. All three end at 6:30 when national newscasts air.

FOX 50 airs a one-hour local newscast at 10 p.m. and ABC11 airs a half-hour newscast at 10 p.m. on the local CW affiliate station. WRAL, ABC11 and CBS17 all go on air at 11 p.m. with a half-hour newscast.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 10.5 hours each weekday for CBC stations WRAL and FOX 50, 7.5 hours for ABC11 and 6 hours each day for CBS17.

VIDEO: A lot has happened for WRAL, WTVD and WNCN over the past two years, and the ratings battle for viewers is tighter than ever.

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.