From the desert to the sea, all local newscasts airing on Los Angeles’ TV stations KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV will be rebranded KCAL News as the Paramount Global-owned outlets seek to better capitalize on KCAL’s reputation for breaking news coverage.
As of today, the station previously known on air as KCAL9 will formally be branded as KCAL News in all dayparts. The refresh coincides with the today’s launch of a seven-hour morning news block on KCAL, starting at 4 a.m., that will also run in part on KCBS, known on-air as CBS2.
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The KCAL rebranding and the morning news push are initiatives championed by Wendy McMahon, president and co-head of CBS News and Television Stations, who joined Paramount Global from Disney in mid-2021.
McMahon told Variety the decision on adopting the KCAL News brand was born out of research showing that the KCAL moniker was immediately identified with live local news. KCAL was a pioneer as the first L.A. broadcast TV station to go all news in primetime back in March 1990.
“We didn’t come at this with the idea of how can we have one brand for two channels. It was really the strength that we saw in KCAL that made us want to do this,” McMahon said. “That led us to embrace this powerful brand that we have, elevate it and super-charge it and breathe a ton of new life into it.”
KCAL was a trailblazer with primetime news but had never been a contender in the lucrative local morning-news arena, leaving that to CBS2. (Paramount Global predecessor CBS Corp. bought KCAL in 1999). In today’s media landscape, that level of separation didn’t make sense. The two stations already pool a lot of resources, which made streamlining the news brand a natural fit.
KCAL and CBS2 are heralding the transition for viewers in image spots that debut today, designed to emphasize the breadth of KCAL’s coverage across the sprawling Southern California region.
McMahon’s larger goal is to get KCAL journalists back out into communities on a consistent basis, to improve beat reporting on news and to offer viewers a better sense of culture and local color, beyond the headlines. One of the two spots features a video clip of legendary L.A. news anchor Jerry Dunphy, who spent his final years in the market at KCAL, joining when the station transitioned to primetime news. (Dunphy famously opened his newscasts with the declaration, “From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California, good evening.”)
“So often news is very insular and studio-based. The pandemic accelerated this,” McMahon said. “Now it’s time to take our trusted journalists and put them where they belong, out in the market and in the neighborhoods. You’ll see us doubling down on that.”
KCAL’s dive into morning TV comes with a new on-air set that puts unusual emphasis on the newsroom’s assignment desk and the journalists who run it. Newscasts will feature segments shot around the assigment desk area, with anchors discussing breaking news and the reporting process with editors and writers.
“These are people who have so much market knowledge and so much institutional knowledge,” Mike Dello Stritto, VP and news director for CBS2 and KCAL, told Variety. “They’re the people who keep digging and peeling back the layers of the onion. They’re unsung heroes and we want to highlight the fact that what they do is so important to the backbone of this newsroom.”
The expansion of news hours at KCAL also means the station is now more in the market for lighter news, features and celebrity guests.
“This is a town where celebrity is the core business,” Dello Stritto said. “We’re looking for people with great stories to tell.”
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