Viacom Builds South Florida Station Empire

Nov 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Not content to have three South Florida stations in its fleet, Viacom is adding two more to its fiefdom in Miami and West Palm Beach. Last week Viacom said it planned to purchase WTCN-TV and WWHB-TV from America Netcom. WTCN is an independent station, with family programming, while WWHB is a Spanish-language TV Azteca affiliate. They are Class A power stations, operated between low power and full power.

Since Viacom already owns UPN station WTVX-TV in West Palm Beach, as well as CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami and UPN station WBFS-TV in Miami, the acquisition effectively extends that so-called triopoly to an unheard-of quintopoly. While the stations will be programmed independently, the quintuplet of stations is emblematic of the growth of the state and the fact that South Florida is emerging as a sort of uber-market stretching from Miami north to West Palm Beach.

“It makes sense for us to be in this expanding, growing, evolving market,” said Michael Colleran, president and general manager of the Viacom stations in South Florida. “South Florida is really becoming one market,” he said. Also as part of the expansion, WTVX will move into a new space later this year that houses a news bureau. The station doesn’t carry news, but the bureau will be used by WFOR and WBFS to better cover West Palm Beach.

The new additions are “very local” stations and will retain their local flair, with sports and town hall programs, he said. The stations will be programmed from Miami though with the triopoly’s programming director, Tracy Letize, assuming responsibility for all five.

The expanded presence will allow Viacom to extend its reach during breaking news events such as the recent hurricanes, by broadcasting across all five stations simultaneously.

South Florida’s population is growing rapidly, and West Palm Beach is only a five-station market, indicating there is room to grow for a competitive sixth station, Mr. Colleran said.

WTCN and WWHB will be managed by Brien Kennedy, VP and general manager of WTVX, who reports to Mr. Colleran.

KTLA Offers Open Auditions for Weather Spot

In Los Angeles, “American Idol” continues to spawn imitators. Tribune-owned WB station KTLA-TV in Los Angeles plans to begin showcasing the finalists for its open weathercaster spot on the 10 p.m. news during the morning news starting this week. The station has been seeking candidates through announcements in broadcast and entertainment trade publications, asking individuals to submit reels for scrutiny. A panel of judges selected 16 finalists in September and taped auditions during October. The auditions will be seen this week on the morning news, and eight will then be selected for the next round. Over the next few weeks, KTLA will continue to winnow down the finalists. The winner will be crowned Dec. 1 by morning news weatherman Mark Kriski.

WGN Warms to Weather Blog

The weblogging phenomenon has now worked its way into the weather coverage of Tribune-owned WB affiliate WGN-TV in Chicago. The station’s well-known weathercast Tom Skilling debuted a weather blog last month offering a behind-the-scenes look at the latest weather news, features and trends. The station’s weather team shares observations and expands upon their on-air insight in the blog. It can be accessed at wngtv.com.

KING and KONG Share Election Resources

Belo’s Northwest cluster plans to share resources on election night to offer viewers a slate of options. On Nov. 2, NBC affiliate KING-TV will partner with NBC News on national and local coverage. When polls close at 8 p.m., independent station KONG-TV will feature extensive cover of local races through 10 p.m., with a special one-hour edition of KING news at 10 p.m.

On the Move

Miami’s Fox station WSVN-TV, owned by Sunbeam, said Diana Diaz has been named a co-anchor of morning news show “Today in Florida.” She’ll work with Christine Cruz. Ms. Diaz had served as a fill-in anchor and as the anchor of the weekend edition, which will now be fronted by Nichelle King. Ms. King had been a fill-in anchor for the weekend edition of the show … Belo-owned ABC station WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky., named Drew Deener a co-sports director, along with sports anchor Kyle Draper. Mr. Deener served as an anchor and reporter for Gray-owned CBS station WKYT-TV in Louisville, Ky. Viacom’s CBS station in KYW-TV has a new general assignment reporter: Anne-Marie Green, who comes from CITY-TV in Toronto.