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Atlanta Pool Springs Leak

After a six-week test, Meredith's WGCL Atlanta has pulled out of its content share with Fox O&O WAGA and Gannett's WXIA, citing the pool's limitation on station differentiation.

“I think there's great value in these types of opportunities, but it just wasn't working for us,” says WGCL VP/General Manager Andy Alford. “We felt the need to cover different [stories], and this limited our ability to do that.”

A Meredith spokesperson says the company remains committed to the concept, such as separate helicopter and content shares in Phoenix.

The Atlanta pool commenced May 18 and had a four-week trial, followed by a two-week extension. WAGA, WXIA and WGCL each contributed a photographer to the pool. Cox's market leader WSB did not take part.

The split is amicable, according to Alford. The arrangement worked on a majority-rules basis, he adds, which at times hindered WGCL's independent voice. “We want to focus on differentiation, and the pool didn't always allow us to do that,” he says.

WXIA and WAGA will progress with their partnership in theNo. 8 DMA.

Content pooling has been the biggest local TV development of 2009. Fox and NBC initiated the modern movement with its Local News Service (LNS) alliance in Philadelphia; the two share content in every market where both own a station. Executives say pooling helps stations avoid having multiple crews covering the same static event, and frees up resources to chase down signature reports.

The opponents of pooling suggest such arrangements lead to layoffs and end up fostering homogeneity among local newscasts. Others say that asking longtime rivals—and their distinct brands and egos—to work side by side is a quixotic order.