L.A. Duopolies Grapple With Changes at TV Stations

Newsrooms: Production teams at L.A. television stations are facing unsettled days.

New KVEA Manager Faces Clash of Cultures

By CARLOS MARTINEZ
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

When Manuel Abud took over last month as general manager at Glendale's KVEA-TV (Channel 52), he didn't have just the usual tasks ahead of him of beefing up ad sales or fine-tuning programming. He's had to deal with the change of culture that comes with a new corporate parent.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Abud. "This is the first time I've run a television station and I now happen to run two stations at once in a difficult market."

Abud, former head of Telemundo Cable, the company's cable channel, is charged with leading a station that has yet to beat longtime Spanish language-market leader KMEX-TV (Channel 34) in the annual ratings race.

But perhaps more challenging is meshing with NBC-owned and operated KNBC-TV (Channel 4), which will share some of its resources with KVEA as part of NBC's $2.7 billion acquisition of Telemundo.

"On the one hand, I'm very close to the Telemundo Network and the mentality of where they are taking things but, on the other hand, I'm trying to immerse myself in the NBC culture," he said.

Grappling with two distinctive entities the Spanish-language KVEA and the English-language KNBC has given Abud cause for both worry and excitement.

"I don't have to worry about not having a budget to do different things. I have the NBC resources and our own and that's exciting," he said.

The two stations plan to share satellite equipment, broadcast feeds and on-air personnel on occasion, but Abud admitted there are limits to the cooperation between the two stations.

Still, some changes are already apparent. KVEA sports anchor Mario Solis occasionally does sports on KNBC's newscasts while KNBC shares its mobile units with KVEA's news operation from time to time. NBC's bilingual network correspondents have pitched in with reports in Spanish for Telemundo's national newscasts.

One casualty has been KWHY-TV (Channel 22), which KVEA acquired a year ago. That deal, which preceded NBC's acquisition of Telemundo, was made with the intention of competing more effectively with Univision Communications Inc.-owned KMEX, which also owns KFTR-TV (Channel 46).

Federal restrictions allow station owners to own a maximum of two stations in one market, so NBC must divest itself of KWHY.

Abud said KVEA's mission would remain the same to inform and entertain its viewing audience. "NBC has a mandate for us to maintain our identity," he said.

Abud has begun an outreach effort, sending its news anchors to broadcast from remote locations in the predominately Latino communities of Huntington Park and East Los Angeles.

Futures of Highly Paid Newscasters in Doubt

By CLAUDIA PESCHIUTTA
Staff Reporter

As L.A.'s three major TV station duopolies consolidate operations, there are growing expectations that some newscasters will be dropped in a money-saving effort.

Talent is a huge expense and a major factor in the ratings, which gives duopoly executives more than enough reasons to re-examine their news teams.

"Working on air is always pretty nerve-wracking because you're always worried about the next person who's going to be hired," said Sylvia Teague, a former executive producer at KCBS and former managing editor at KCAL-TV (Channel 9). "When you've got this much movement, it's got to make people very, very nervous."

No news anchor has been dropped, but sources say that a few are taking pay cuts, while others are going without raises.

The biggest change so far has been the recent hiring of Laura Diaz by KCBS-TV (Channel 2). A 19-year veteran of rival KABC-TV (Channel 7), Diaz starts in September and will replace Ann Martin as co-anchor of the 5 p.m. newscast and Gretchen Carr at 11 p.m. Martin will continue to anchor at noon and Carr will move to the station's new 4:30 p.m. newscast.

Anchors get the highest salaries and therefore might seem more vulnerable in an era of overall cost cutting. "That's a huge, huge part of the budget," Teague said.

But anchors play a major role in establishing a station's identity, which makes management cautious about changing them around.

"They are the major identity of a local television station," said Wald.

Viacom Inc., owner of KCBS, recently acquired KCAL and is in the process of combining operations at Channel 2's home, Columbia Square on Sunset Boulevard.

General Electric Co.-owned NBC this year completed its acquisition of Telemundo Communications Group Inc. The network plans to relocate local Telemundo outlets KVEA-TV (Channel 52) and KWHY-TV (Channel 22) to the KNBC-TV (Channel 4) facility in Burbank.

News Corp.'s purchase of Chris-Craft Industries Inc. last year put KTTV-TV (Channel 11) and KCOP-TV (Channel 13) in the same family. For now, the stations are keeping their separate facilities but there have been some changes. Most notably, KCOP's 10 p.m. newscast (which went up against KTTV) was moved to 11 p.m.

In a show of how valued top anchors continue to be, KNBC recently signed a six-year deal with Paul Moyer rumored to be worth $3 million a year. The veteran L.A. anchor says he feels pretty secure in his job and points out that any changes in on-air talent can be a turn-off for viewers.

"If you try to cut back on-air people and start using your on-air people at both stations, that's going to confuse the hell out of people," Moyer said. "You can't mix and match."

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