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Jan 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

O’Brien shaking up Meredith stations
It seems as though Kevin O’Brien, who became president of the Meredith Broadcasting Group in November, is moving quickly to make changes. Staffers at Meredith-owned Fox affiliate KVVU-TV, Las Vegas, were surprised when General Manager Rusty Durante resigned about two weeks ago. Mr. Durante started at KVVU 33 years ago as a film editor and worked his way up. “Change is tough on people, and when somebody’s been there that long and let go and they bring in an outsider, nobody knows what’s going on,” said one rival Las Vegas station executive. Over at Meredith-owned CBS affiliate KPHO-TV, Phoenix, General Manager Pat North resigned early this month. He had been there since 1992, but KPHO had been a low-rated station in the competitive market.
According to a Meredith spokesman, Kim Montour is interim general manager at KVVU, and Lee Petrik, operations manager at KPDX-TV, Portland, is the interim general manager at KPHO. “We have openings for a new general manager at our Phoenix station, KPHO, as well as our Las Vegas station, KVVU,” the spokesman said.
Honeymoon phase for Vinciquerra
Fox affiliate board members are giving new Fox Television President Tony Vinciquerra a grace period. Mr. Vinciquerra, former Hearst-Argyle chief operating officer, has a good reputation among station managers who met him for the first time at the Jan. 20 affiliate board meeting during the National Association of Television Program Executives conference.
Before Mr. Vinciquerra was hired, the affiliate board voted unanimously to eliminate the prime-time inventory purchase agreement, which ends in June. The three-year program gave affiliates 15 additional spots per week, on top of the 90 spots they had, at a cost of about $55 million. Station managers called this reverse compensation, and each station paid based on its market size. But now with the hiring of Mr. Vinciquerra, the affiliate board said it would give him time to look over the agreement that had been in place.
“There might be a new creative idea where something that we haven’t thought about works for both of us,” said Mark Higgins, general manager at WOFL-TV, Orlando, Fla., and the new affiliate board chairman. “[Tony] has asked for some time to get familiar and get acquainted [with the agreement]. We have agreed to take a look at some of the models, and this model that we both inherited is well over 3 years old. We’re anxious to take a look at some other possibilities. And he gave us his commitment that he would do that.”
In addition to Mr. Higgins being elected chairman, Jon Lawhead, general manager at WXIX-TV, Cincinnati, was named vice chairman. But Mr. Vinciquerra said the network expects some contribution from the affiliates. “We’re not contemplating that going away,” Mr. Vinciquerra said. “We’re looking at ways that we can both feel good about it. It’s a very fluid situation-we already have some deals done going forward with individual groups, and that’s how they will be negotiated. This was one of the best meetings I’ve been at. It was very constructive, very positive. We talked about ways to advance our businesses rather than point fingers at each other. People at Fox are very interested in making sure that the relationship between the affiliates and network is a positive one and will grow. I’m hoping that I can help that process along.”
Mr. Higgins emphasized that the affiliate board is just an advisory board and that deals are made between group owners and the networks. “We view Tony as one of us,” Mr. Higgins said. “He’s an operator-he understands our perspective, and he understands what we do on a day-to-day basis. So having him as part of the team is very exciting to the Fox board. We ended in a very upbeat manner and are very optimistic on what we can accomplish.”
All quiet on the NATPE front
Some station managers who went to NATPE said the meetings held at hotel suites were like deja vu. “It’s very quiet,” said Deb McDermott, executive vice president of operations at Young Broadcasting. “It reminds me of old NATPE,” said Bruce Opperman, general manager of NBC affiliate WLIO-TV, Lima, Ohio, who attended a panel on media deregulation and also went to the opening ceremonies featuring Ted Koppel and John Walsh. “I bet there were less than a couple hundred people,” Mr. Opperman said. He said it was a bit odd not to see the huge King World, Paramount, MGM and Buena Vista booths. “I think NATPE’s going to work on that,” Mr. Opperman said.