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Ed Greene with no waiting (or at least not as much): Channel 4 conducts weather experiment

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Even in the age of online weather reports, surveys continue to show that the majority of TV news viewers tune in the late wrap-up to see the forecast for the next day. That explains why stations typically tease the weather segment during the early portion of the show but don't actually provide much usable information until deep into it, in order to force people to stick around for as long as possible

Although the approach makes sense from a business perspective, it's irritating for news consumers -- so Channel 4 is trying something different. Beginning this week, weatherman Ed Greene's complete forecast started airing during the first ten minutes of the program.

Clearly, the station is taking a risk, as news director Tim Wieland confirms. "We say we're putting the viewer first," he notes, "and hopefully they'll appreciate that and come to us, even though what we're doing flies in the face of forty years of conventional wisdom."

The idea for the experiment came from Greene.

"Ed took me to lunch of couple of months ago and suggested it," Wieland recalls. "He said he kept hearing from viewers that they wanted the whole forecast earlier instead of doing the entire forecast at the end of the news."

Wieland wasn't immediately persuaded. "I had to digest that for a while. I thought, if it's such a great idea, why isn't everybody doing it? The intent of keeping the weather at about seventeen minutes after the hour is to keep viewers watching as long as possible, and to ultimately increase the ratings.

"But we thought that maybe more people would come to us at ten o'clock if we were giving them what they wanted -- and if we can present a compelling-enough case to stick around for more news, hopefully they will."

It's too early to tell whether the results will be positive or negative. Wieland says early feedback from viewers has been excellent, and during two of the first three nights, viewership remained steady throughout the newscast -- although there was a noticeable drop-off after the weather report during the third. Still, this dip didn't provoke panic.

"Our plan right now is to do it indefinitely," Wieland says. "If for whatever reason it appears that it's not something viewers want, we're on their side and we'll make sure we're providing the newscast they want. But our intent is to stick with it, and the early returns are very good."

Indeed they are. Here's a memo Wieland sent to his troops earlier this morning:

The February Sweep is off to an exciting start! CBS4 News at 10pm was #1 in Households last night, with a 9.1 rating/18 share. We were a close #2 in A25-54 with a 4.4 rating/12 share. The first quarter hour of our 10pm news held nearly 100% of the audience delivered by the very popular show, "The Mentalist" -- something we've never done before.

Also yesterday -- a very strong performance at 5pm: we tied for #1 at 5pm in HH, and were again a close #2 in A25-54. We actually climbed 3 share points in HH and 2 share points in A25-54 coming out of Oprah.

And, the 6pm news delivered a very solid 3.5/7 in HH and 2.0/7 in demo, nearly tied for #1.

Congrats on a great start to the February sweeps.

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