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The Insider

Sep 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The Insider hates to be a gossip spoilsport, but she’s about to take some fun out of a story that’s making the rounds. According to this story, Viacom Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin was slow to warm to the idea of hiring Larry Wert to run Viacom-owned CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago (Mr. Wert yanked Karmazin cash cow Howard Stern off WLUP-AM in Chicago in 1993). That created a window of opportunity for NBC to apply some high-level pressure to convince Mr. Wert to remain the general manager of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV. A window during which NBC Chairman Bob Wright supposedly dispatched a plane to bring Mr. Wert to Mr. Wright’s vacation home on Nantucket.
As we all know, Mr. Wert stayed at WMAQ, something both sides seem to feel he had always intended to do after getting some mileage out of the offer from former boss and newly anointed Viacom stations COO Dennis Swanson.
Sources familiar with the Viacom side say Mr. Karmazin had mentioned the long-ago flap but had said that if Mr. Wert were a winner, of course he should be hired. In the meantime, the leaks about the courtship of Mr. Wert began at the same time Mr. Swanson’s talks with KGO-TV General Manager Joe Ahern heated up. Mr. Ahern, first approached about switching from ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco to CBS’s KPIX-TV, decided to come back to Chicago as general manager of WBBM.
Sources familiar with the NBC side say there was indeed a conversation between Mr. Wert and Mr. Wright on Nantucket, but that it happened a couple of weeks after Mr. Wert decided to stay with NBC and had gone on vacation to Hyannis, Mass. When Mr. Wright learned Mr. Wert was on Cape Cod, he called and invited the station executive to hop on over to the island of Nantucket.
As The Insider always says: Context is everything.
`Inside Stuff’s’ move and makeover
After 12 years on NBC’s Saturday “tweener” programming block, where it built a following among 12- to 17-year-olds, “NBA Inside Stuff” is moving Sept. 7 to ABC, where it will air at 12:30 p.m. (ET), following the younger-skewing (and rebranded) ABC Kids lineup.
So there’s been some nipping and tucking over the summer to make the half-hour program more appealing to the younger kids the NBA wants to wrap into its fan base.
Executive producer Ahmad Rashad and former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders are staying as co-hosts. Cutting-edge music will continue to drive many features, including the familiar “Rewind” and “Jam Session” segments. But Steve Herbst, VP of series programming for NBA Entertainment, said there will be new theme music (look for a pop-hip-hoppy sound), hipper graphics, a new set (still at the NBA Entertainment facility in Secaucus, N.J.) and a faster pace.
“Faster?” wheezed the geezery Insider, who has been known to get winded just watching “Inside Stuff.”
“No more three-minute features!” said Mr. Herbst.
He said it genially enough. Still, The Insider keeps flashing to the image of Faye Dunaway chewing the scenery and chopping the shrubbery as Joan Crawford in full “No wire hangers!!” meltdown mode in “Mommie Dearest.” Clearly, it’s time for The Insider to take in her medication for fine tuning.
Mr. Davies’ relationship seat is taken
Michael Davies, the man who quit an ABC executive job to import “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” and Claude Kaplan, who is on the development team of documentarian Barbara Kopple, were married Aug. 24 in East Hampton on Long Island in a ceremony attended by a quiet collection of family and friends.
The latter group, an eclectic one, to be sure, included “ABC World News” anchor Peter Jennings, public television talkmeister and “60 Minutes II” contributor Charlie Rose and WB distribution executive Ken Werner. And, of course, Ms. Kopple, whose four-hour take on the good life in the Hamptons last season ruffled numerous local feathers when it aired on ABC; “Live” host Regis Philbin, whose long career kicked into overdrive as host of “Millionaire” in prime time in 1999; and “The View’s” Meredith Vieira, the host of the syndicated “Millionaire” making its debut this month.
How to lose shirt, keep sense of humor
The evidence would suggest that former Federal Communications Commission regulator Jim Quello has not benefited from insider trading tips in the telecommunications industry. Indeed, Mr. Quello told The Insider that his retirement portfolio was down $500,000, largely through significant stakes in a variety of telecommunications stocks, including AOL Time Warner, Adelphia Communications and Qwest Communications.
The former commissioner said he would favor government regulation requiring corporate miscreants who cook company books for personal benefit to forfeit personal wealth to compensate pension and retirement plans and stockholders. “Thank God I missed Enron and WorldCom,” said the former commissioner, 88. He added that he’s hard at work on a humorous book. The title: “The Golden Years Suck.”