ABC Tinkers with the Idea of Midday News

With the audiences for traditional network news shows steadily declining, (see the PEJ’s State of the News Media 2010) executives at the broadcast news divisions are continuing to brainstorm new ideas on how to expand their offerings. For example, ABC News executives, according to multiple sources, have recently tossed around the idea of creating a midday news and lifestyle program that would be one part Good Morning America, one part The View.  

Informally, people in the industry have nicknamed the embryonic project Midday America.  

How ABC stations would fit the new show into their daytime line-up remains unclear–and it’s still a strong possibility that the project will fizzle out long before it ever makes it onto the air.  

That said, according to our sources, ABC News executives have had preliminary discussions with internal and external candidates about what a midday news show might possibly look like.  

Earlier this year, on the eve of severe cost-cutting measures, ABC News hired former MSNBC correspondent Ashleigh Banfield. When TV Newser originally broke the news of Ms. Banfield’s hiring, an ABC News spokesperson was vague about what her job responsibilities would be, saying only that they are “always looking at ways to program news on the network and we’ve tested a number of presentations for expanded news.”  

Sources tell us that if the afternoon news project ever sees the light of day, Ms. Banfield will likely be one of the anchors on the new program. Who might join her remains unclear. But one of the names being tossed about by TV insiders is Tamron Hall, currently a dayside anchor at MSNBC.

Typically, broadcast news divisions have stuck to morning, evening, and primetime programming and left the middle chuck of the day to syndicated talk shows and soap operas. But recently, NBC News began experimenting in multiple markets with an early afternoon news show, made up largely of repurposed news and lifestyle bits culled from various NBC Universal channels. Now ABC News executives are also eyeing the network’s midriff.

Phyllis McGrady, ABC’s senior vice president of creative development, is overseeing the idea.    

An ABC executive with knowledge of the situation downplayed the likelihood of a green light from the network any time soon. “There are lots of ideas,” said the executive. “There’s a big difference between an idea and developing a program–which can take many years.”