We barely had time to take a deep breath since the night time changes at PIX, bouncing Scott Stanford to sports and rolling out the red carpet for John Muller (more in a moment), when another salvo struck.
The PIX (early) Morning News was upended today, right before our eyes. Marysol Castro, who rejoined Channel 11 in September, anchored for the final time today. Tuned In confirmed it from multiple sources and she alluded to her dismissal in the closing seconds with on-air partner Dan Mannarino.
“Hey dude, it was nice knowing you,” Castro told Mannarino.
“It was fun,” he replied.
As for Mannarino, his status is a bit muddy. He’s been part of numerous rumors for months. But we’ve learned on good authority that Mannarino is taking some time off to decide on his future. Another definite, if Mannarino returns it won’t be behind the anchor desk.
How bad are the WPIX ratings in the morning? Non-existant would best describe them. The station wants to break out of the funk with a May sweeps giveaway to sway viewers from WNYW.
Tuned In has learned exclusively that WPIX will foot the bill for one year’s worth of mortgage or rent for four viewers. The desperate move is called Home Free Friday, and starts April 28. Winners will be announced each Friday in May on the PIX Morning News with Sukanya Krishnan and Kori Chambers.
We’re told that up to $1,500 per month will be handed out, and as much as $18,000 in total to one winner for their yearly mortgage or rent payment.
Viewers will watch for a code word during the morning broadcast. They will text the word to enter the drawing.
WPIX, which has been in a morning ratings freefall opposite WNYW/Channel 5, will add news programming to the schedule.
Sources confirm to Tuned In that management is in the process of creating a daily, one-hour newscast at 11 a.m.
But don’t expect the late morning newscast to help promote PIX Morning News anchors Sukanya Krishnan and Kori Chambers. We’re told that Channel 11 is searching for anchors from outside of the station.
“You can only stretch a fiscal rubber band so far before it breaks,” the source said, adding, “You have to make money to spend money. You need to look no further than Eyewitness News [WABC].”
For those unable to wait for noon, the 11 a.m hour is a good alternative, although The View and The Price is Right are formidable foes.
There’s more movement at WPIX. The Tribune flagship will add weekend news shows from 6-9 a.m., also with talent not currently on the Channel 11 roster. Tuned In has learned that viewers can expect to see the daily and weekend changes by May.
Update: WPIX News Director Mark Effron tells Tuned In, “We’re looking at a whole number of options.”
While the buzz has been surrounding night time changes at WPIX, notably Scott Stanford‘s ascension to news anchor, the public is speaking in record numbers about the morning newscasts.
It’s three months since our breaking news filled the Internet that Frances Rivera would not have her contract renewed. We’ve received feedback from dozens of people and we’re still getting comments. Here is a sample of some strong opinions posted to Tuned In.
Chrissy Craig writes, “I thought Francis Rivera did an awesome job…loved her smile…sense of humor and her charm.”
Barbara Fortini says, “I am completely floored! I have been looking for Frances for weeks. Frances Rivera is a very pleasant, professional and enjoyable to watch… Too bad for PIX because many people will not be viewing the news without Frances at the helm.”
Joel Santos concurs, “I thought Francis was out on emergency leave or maybe even vacation, but now morning after morning of not seeing her around, it was obvious something was wrong. I googled Francis Rivera to read this heart wrenching news! This must’ve been a decision based on politics, because anyone who tuned into the PIX11 Morning News saw there was nothing but chemistry on the air between Sukanya and Francis.”
While the focus of most people’s attention at Channel 11 has been evenings and Tamsen Fadal, Tuned In has learned exclusively that morning is about to get a makeover.
Frances Rivera, the PIX Morning News co-anchor, has accepted a buyout. Insiders say she will stay on the air until the end of the month.
Tuned In attempted to reach the station for comment.
Rivera teamed with the popular Sukanya Krishnan for the three-hour morning program beginning in August 2011. It could be that viewers never warmed up to Rivera. As in the evening, the ratings have been poor opposite powerhouse Good Day New York at WNYW, although Channel 11’s best numbers have actually been in the a.m.
“When it comes to news anchor teams, good chemistry is the hardest thing to find. And here’s proof positive,” an insider says. “Frances was liked as a person, but you didn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to notice the lack of, or existence of, any chemistry between her and Sukanya. I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did.”
Dan Mannarino is out as weekend co-anchor on WPIX. Sources tell Tuned In that Mannarino did his final weekend behind the desk on June 16. He’ll remain a reporter at Channel 11.
It was a failed experiment from the start for news director Mark Effron, who teamed the veteran Kaity Tong, 65, with the thirty-something enterprising reporter.
“It’s a case of age versus beauty,” a source cracks. “And beauty wins out,”
From the outset of joining PIX, Effron made no allusions internally about undoing the Bill Carey era. As we reported last month, he told staffers that the station is in the process of employing the standard second anchor, at this point with Tamsen Fadal. But the recent weekend movement caught many insiders by surprise.
The Tong and Mannarino on-air partnership, which survived only three weekends, started June 1.
“The problem with Dan is that he looked and sounded at least 10 years younger than he actually was,” the source says. “When you looked at the totality of the Kaity and Dan anchor team, what defined the two of them? Nothing.”
It’s good to be the king! OK, maybe the Mel Brooks line is a bit strong. But it was all about WPIX this morning with a special 10 minutes of coverage as Prince Harry toured Seaside Heights, New Jersey with Governor Christie.
At 11 a.m. WPIX pre-empted Jerry Springer for morning anchors Sukanya Krishnan and Frances Rivera. Reporter Ann Mercogliano exuberantly told viewers that she hoped to get a moment with the prince. However, that standout TV moment never happened as Harry didn’t make his way down the receiving line. Mercogliano was smooth as she spoke to onlookers. In her few minutes on the air, a comfortable Mercogliano put her personality on display, saying about the twenty-something prince, “he does look good!”
Mercogliano is no stranger to covering the royals. Her reporting from Kate and William’s wedding for WNBC in 2011 was Emmy-nominated.
We were unable to find any other outlets, local or national, that aired live footage. Surprisingly, even WWOR, did we mention Seacaucus, New Jersey based WWOR, was also no-show.
It was a long day’s journey into night. But for WPIX, it was a riveting day of coverage from Boston as the second marathon suspect was ultimately captured.
WPIX, which welcomed a new news director this week, was the place to be Friday for the best video and reporting.
It started at 4 a.m. with morning anchors Sukanya Krishnan and Frances Rivera, who worked into the afternoon. Channel 11′s non-stop coverage rolled on with Tamsen Fadal and Larry Mendte taking over the anchor desk.
PIX had several reporters on the scene in and around the Boston area, including Jay Dow and Erica Pitzi.
But the day belonged to James Ford. The usual morning reporter started his day at 2 a.m. During the next 21 hours, Ford provided viewers with some of the most riveting images. Ford and his videographer became “embedded” with the S.W.A.T. and police. His “war zone” reporting was must see TV, even when cops ordered the cameras on the ground for safety purposes.
WPIX resumed regular programming Friday night at 11:30.