KEYE-TV’s new “We Are Austin Mornings,” show, starring host Erika Gonzalez and weatherman Kelly Slifka is a concept in search of a demographic.
Who is the audience supposed to be for this 5 a.m-7 a.m. news/entertainment program? The coveted 25-54 segment on which television stations sell their commercial spots? Older viewers who are the more loyal news fans? Younger viewers who love music, social media and going out to listen to the hottest new bands?
After watching the show on both its July 1st opening day and three weeks later, I fear the effort to please everyone will please virtually no one.
Many in the 25-54 year old bunch will be happy with the frequent weather and traffic updates and fast paced news segments as they try to get the kids off to school and day care while also heading off to work themselves. But they will likely be frustrated by the interruptions for social media tie-ins and long features from the afternoon “We are Austin Live” show, the parent of this early morning spin-off. The fact that the second hour is a virtual repeat of the first will not bother this group since they probably will not be watching that long.
The older folks will likely not be able to keep up. Aside from the afternoon feature packages and the obligatory cooking segment, the show never stays on any feature or topic or story for more than 30-60 seconds. Erika is in constant high gear, talking very fast even on the news headlines and generally having a good time. Her switch back and forth from delivering straight news headlines to yukking it up is jarring. If you thought the early Today Show Katie Couric was too “perky,” you’ll find Erika exhausting. KEYE might consider a third person to deliver the news and free up Erika for the lighter hosting duties. To her credit, Erika has calmed down quite a bit from the debut show in early July when she was almost out of control.
The younger than 25 singles crowd may find a lot to like. One of the key repeating segments is the Facebook poll, where viewers offer their comments on an issue in the news. Viral videos are always fun, but very overdone. In Austin, the “live music capital of the world,” the emphasis on musical selections behind the teases to the next segments is a winning idea. The downside for attracting the younger demographic–if you are out listening to bands until 2 a.m., are you up at 5 a.m. to see this show?
For me, “We Are Austin Mornings,” is hurried and somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Still, there are some interesting features that could be rescued and tweaked. The news producer in me wonders what they are going to do if they have a major breaking serious news story. They’ll have to either throw the format out the window that morning or risk appearing insensitive.
The hosts are the stereotypical odd couple. Slifka is a competent, straight ahead meteorologist and traffic reporter. Again, pairing him with the bouncy Erika is a shock to the system. That being said, I think Erika is talented with natural gifts. She has an excellent voice, good delivery (albeit too fast) and former homecoming queen attractiveness. She will have to make a career decision at some point””does she want to be an entertainer or a news person?
Bottom line””KEYE-TV has little to lose with this gamble. Executives had to come up with something after the end of the JB and Sandy 94.7 radio show simulcast. They go up against strong competition from KVUE-TV and KXAN-TV morning shows beginning at 4:30 a.m. and KEYE-TV is also saddled with the low rated CBS Morning News at 7 a.m.
Maybe they can cobble together enough viewers from each demographic to interest advertisers and make a little money. It’s an uphill battle.