Former WCPO-TV morning anchor Chris Riva will return to local airwaves next week in preparation for WXIX-TV's early evening news expansion.
Riva, whose Good Morning Tri-State contract was not renewed in 2018, will be an anchor-reporter when Channel 19 adds 5-6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts on Jan. 6.
"It was a very quick decision on my part. It was a perfect opportunity, a perfect situation," says Riva about meeting with Vice President Debbie Bush and News Director Steve Hyvonen last month.
A Monroe native, Riva told me he has turned down TV jobs at six out-of-town stations since leaving Channel 9 because he wanted to raise his family here. His wife Jamie, a Mercy High School graduate, teaches third grade in Hamilton. They got engaged at Sawyer Point; married at St. Xavier Church downtown; and now live in Mason.
"I love this community. I want my kids to grow up here. Every decision I make now is for my family," Riva says.
The Wright State University graduate who did two stints at Channel 9 gives Fox 19 a solid anchor-reporter who knows the territory, Bush says.
"It's nice to have someone who's a really good journalist, and someone who knows the city, and comes in with his own story ideas," Bush says.
Bush and Hyvonen have been planning an early evening local news expansion since January, when Gray Television acquired Raycom Media stations. Gray executives gave them the green light, after Channel 19's successful addition of 4-5 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts in August 2018.
Starting Jan. 6, WXIX-TV will broadcast 11 hours and five minutes of news every weekday: 4:30-11 a.m.; 4-7 p.m.; and 10-11:35 p.m. That's more than any other Cincinnati TV station.
During ratings' "sweeps" month last May, Fox 19 was the most-watched Cincinnati station for late news with viewers ages 25 to 54, the demographic advertisers target. Channel 19's 10-11 p.m. news Monday-Friday drew a 2.1 Nielsen rating in adults 25-54 in May, more than the 11 p.m. weekday newscasts on WLWT-TV (1.5); WCPO-TV and WKRC-TV (tied at 1.2), or Fox 19's 11 p.m. news (11.3). November sweeps demographics will be released later this month.
"Fox 19 has the most momentum in this market, and this news expansion puts it into overdrive," Hyvonen says. "The viewers have learned that Fox 19 is about news – hard news, breaking news."
In addition to Riva, Channel 19 also will hire another co-anchor, likely a woman, and other staffers. Bush would not elaborate for competitive reasons. The new roles for main anchors Tricia Macke and Rob Williams, and the new anchors, have not been determined.
"We're still fine-tuning where everyone will end up, and which combinations we'll use," Hyvonen says.
To make room for the 5-6:30 p.m. news, WXIX-TV will move Judge Judy to 2-4 p.m. The 6 p.m. Jeopardy! rerun will air at 12:30 p.m.
Riva started at WCPO-TV as a sports producer when he graduated from Wright State University in 1994. He left in 1997 to anchor in Dayton, Green Bay, Denver and Sacramento before returning to Channel 9 as Kathrine Nero's morning co-anchor in 2014. In a surprise move, WCPO-TV did not renew his contract in March 2018. Four months later, WCPO-TV stunned Nero by not picking up her option and letting her go, too.
Hyvonen says Riva will be on the air reporting next week, something Riva is looking forward to doing.
"I've got to report. I've got to be out in the field. You know, I have a different perspective. I'm from Middletown. I'm not an Elder kid or a St. X kid," says the Butler County native.
Riva also may do some fill-in anchoring during Christmas vacations, Hyvonen says.
Since leaving Channel 9, Riva has operated a public relations and marketing company from his home, and served on the board of Middletown's Sorg Opera House. He has shut down his PR firm, but will remain on the Sorg board, he says.
"I'll be full-time journalist here starting Monday," Riva says.
The Jan. 6 lineup will be: 25 Words Or Less (noon); Jeopardy! rerun (12:30 p.m.); Cops (1 p.m.); Protection Court (1:30 p.m.); Judge Judy (2-4 p.m.); Fox 19 Now news (4-7 p.m.); Wheel of Fortune (7 p.m.); and Jeopardy! (7:30 p.m.).