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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Why all the changes at WLWT?

jennifer hudson mollie lair
Jennifer Hudson, AP
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Mollie Lair, Facebook

After years of stability, Channel 5 viewers will see some new faces on the weekend news and new weekday programs to replace 'Days Of Our Lives,' 'Ellen' and 'The Good Dish' this fall.

Why all the changes at WLWT-TV? Why are three news staffers — Mollie Lair, Brandon Saho and Alenna Martella — all leaving within three weeks?

What will weekday viewers see next month when Days Of Our Lives leaves Channel 5 airwaves after nearly six decades? Or when Ellen DeGeneres' Ellen talk show and The Good Dish also vanish from WLWT-TV after Sept. 9?

Branden Frantz admits it's an unusual situation after five years of relative stability during his tenure as WLWT-TV president and general manager. In a long conversation, he explained what's happening at Cincinnati oldest television station:

NEWS CHANGES: He calls the departures of Lair, Saho and Martella "100 percent coincidence" and a "situational coincidence." Their contracts expire this month, which is not unusual. Contracts for TV news personnel most likely are signed in August, December-January, March-April or summer around the crucial ratings "sweeps" months of February, May, November and the fall TV launch in September-October.

Alanna Martella 2022 image0 CROP1.jpg
Courtesy Alanna Martella
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Alanna Martella left WLWT-TV after her traffic reports Friday July 29.

All three are leaving television, not just WLWT-TV, after 8-10 years into their broadcasting career. Martella, a Seton High School graduate, quit as traffic reporter to move with her boyfriend to Boston where he's doing a one-year sports medicine fellowship.

Weekend co-anchor Lair, who recently married, says she's "excited to explore another opportunity" after five years at the station and the she is "undecided on whether I may eventually return to TV."

Saho, who took a mental health break in April from WLWT-TV, will anchor his last sportscasts this weekend. The LaSalle High School alum says he wanted a break from working nights and weekends.

"These are people who have been doing it for a number of years, and are looking to do something different, or in a different place," Frantz says.

branden_frantz__wlwt_headshot.jpg
Courtesy WLWT-TV
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WLWT-TV President and General Manager Branden Frantz.

Frantz says all three will be replaced. Two of the three positions will be "upgraded" or "elevated," he says, declining to comment further. One new hire could be announced next week, he says. But he's in no rush, explaining that his goal is to hire "really, really good people." To get the right fit, positions have been kept open for up to a year, he says.

DAYTIME TALK: Singer-actress Jennifer Hudson premieres her Jennifer Hudson Show at 3 p.m. on Sept. 12, replacing Ellen, which ended May 26. Warner Bros. has invested a lot into the program, which he called "a fresh new show, with someone with a different voice."

Also on Sept. 12, the Rachael Ray syndicated lifestyle show moves from 11 a.m. on WXIX-TV to 11 a.m. on WLWT-TV, replacing The Good Dish.

NO SOAP: The biggest jolt for some long-time Channel 5 viewers will be NBC's moving of Days Of Our Lives after 57 years to its Peacock streaming service on Sept. 12. Frantz is braced for lots of phone calls from irate loyal Days fans who have called to complain when the 1 p.m. soap was pre-empted for the January 6 Congressional committee hearings or other news events.

NBC's announcement "came out of the blue," he says. "I'm not sure I understand this one."

To me, it's clearly a strategy to lure older viewers to streaming, just as ABC is doing this fall by moving Dancing With The Stars to the Disney+ streaming service.

Days will be replaced by NBC News Daily, anchored by Kate Snow, Aaron Gilchrist, Vicky Nguyen and Morgan Radford. They will deliver "up-to-the-minute national and international news, with the option for NBC stations to add local news," according to the NBC announcement last week.

Frantz makes two points: NBC's one-hour program will be a newscast, and not a lifestyle program like ABC's Good Morning America spin-off, GMA3: What You Need To Know, also airing at 1 p.m. And WLWT-TV and other affiliates will be given local news inserts, similar to the local news breaks in NBC's Today show. So Channel 5 will have the only local newscast here in the 1 p.m. hour, he notes.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.