Not to be outflanked by its competitors, top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will expand its weekday morning newscast by moving its start time to 4:30 a.m., effective next week.
Judy Hsu and Hosea Sanders will anchor the expanded newscast from 4:30 to 7 a.m., along with meteorologist Tracy Butler and traffic reporter Roz Varon.
Monday's announcement came just 10 days after Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 unveiled plans to start its morning news block at 4:30 a.m., effective Aug. 16. NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 was first in the time period, starting at 4:30 a.m. in 2007.
Emily Barr, president and general manager of Channel 7, said plans for the expansion had been in the works long before Channel 9's announcement. "It's a natural extension of what we do from 5 to 7 [a.m.]," she added.
Channel 7 also announced plans Monday for an additional hour of news on Saturday mornings, starting Sept. 4. Stacey Baca, who now anchors solo at 6 a.m. Saturdays, also will anchor the new newscast at 8 a.m. An ABC network newscast will continue to air at 7 a.m. Leaving ABC's Saturday morning lineup is "Power Rangers." In announcing the changes, Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of Channel 7, said:
"This is a great opportunity for us to expand local coverage during morning time periods that have become increasingly more important to viewers. Now, the many viewers who are in the habit of turning to ABC 7 for news and weather have even more choices."