City of Brotherly Love Gets Phil of Local Content

Maggie Kent reports for WPVI’s Action News, the longtime market leader in Philadelphia.
Maggie Kent reports for WPVI’s Action News, the longtime market leader in Philadelphia. (Image credit: Action News)

Philadelphia’s newsrooms are producing local content that reflects these newsy times. WPVI has “Building It Better Together” segments, WCAU has “Race in Philly” specials, WTXF has “Our Race Reality” specials (see sidebar) and KYW has “Justice and Understanding” segments. 

“Building It Better Together” has covered housing, gun violence and transportation. The segments launched last year. “Who would’ve known they’d become a perfect precursor?” of frenetic 2020, WPVI president and general manager Bernie Prazenica said. 

The networks own the major stations in DMA No. 4. ABC has WPVI; NBCUniversal holds WCAU and Telemundo sister WWSI; Fox owns WTXF and CBS has KYW and The CW outlet WPSG. Univision has WUVP-WSPA. Nexstar Media Group owns MyNetworkTV-affiliated WPHL. 

See Also: Fox 29 Focused on Race

Philadelphia-based Comcast (parent of NBCU) is the major pay TV operator. 

Stations are getting by with what Brandin Stewart, KYW-WPSG president and general manager, called a “skeleton crew” in the building. “We did some amazing things in a brief period of time,” he said of shifting to work-from-home mode. 

The other GMs note how content quality has stayed high despite the workplace disruption. “None of us have ever worked our way through something like this,” Ric Harris, WCAU-WWSI president and general manager, said. 

The NFL is underway, so much of Philly’s focus turns to the Eagles. WTXF has 10 Eagles games. Leading into Thursday Night Football is local sports-wagering show Props & Locks. “It feels like a very, very relevant show in the sports world today,” said Jim Driscoll, WTXF VP and news director. 

Fox 29’s freewheeling morning show, Good Day Philadelphia, “sets the tone for our station,” senior VP and general manager Dennis Bianchi said.

Besides 6 and 11 p.m. news, WUVP has news inserts in the morning, and sometimes beyond. WPSG began rebroadcasting its 10 p.m. news at 10:30 p.m. a few months back. “People are wanting to get more news,” said Stewart.

WCAU partners with the Philadelphia Tribune on “Race in Philly,” 30-minute monthly specials. NBC10 changed its morning team in mid September. Vai Sikahema, who anchored with Tracy Davidson, is retiring. The 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. team, Keith Jones and Erin Coleman, moved in. “They’re both from Philadelphia and really entrenched in the market,” said Harris. “Our audience knows them, likes them and trusts them.”

WWSI replaced its 6-7 a.m. news with cut-ins, which run around 2½ minutes a pop. 

WPHL airs the four-hour PHL17 Morning News and a 10 p.m. Action News at Ten on PHL17 produced by WPVI. MyNetworkTV programming runs 2-4 a.m. and off-net comedies, such as Black-ish and The Goldbergs, occupy prime. “Family Night Every Night is our slogan,” said Vincent Giannini, VP and general manager. 

WPVI is a ratings beast. For 2020 through August, Action News won 6-7 a.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. in households and viewers 25-54. At 11 p.m., WPVI has averaged a 5.4 in households, ahead of KYW’s 3.3 and WCAU’s 2.9. In viewers 25-54, WPVI has a 1.7, WCAU a 1.1, KYW a 0.9 and WTXF a 0.6.

Prazenica sums up 6 ABC’s success in a word: stability. “We know our brand, we have confidence in our brand, and we evolve our brand,” he said. 

The station has three community journalists, and a “data fellow” to hone WPVI’s data journalism ventures. 

Bianchi called Philly a “first-rate, cosmopolitan city.” Eddy Elguezabal, WUVP-WSPA president/general manager, described it as “the most understated city in the country” — a locale people don’t think about for vacations, but thanks to its history, diversity and local grub, probably should. 

He added, “Who doesn’t like Philly cheesesteaks?”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.