CBS Has Big PlansFor Little WLNY

Suburban WLNY NEW YORK is getting some big-city upgrades, including hi-def, more local news and a big-name station manager, now that the CBS Television Stations’ $55 million acquisition has closed. CBS agreed to buy the independent station from WLNY Holdings in December— getting a rare duopoly in the most major of markets.

WLNY flipped the switch on HD March 30, and will kick off three hours of daily local news in late June or July. “This gives us a lot of growth potential in the New York market,” says Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations. “Having an independent like WLNY gives us the freedom to do anything and everything to make the station more appealing to more people across the entire tri-state area.”

Foremost among the improvements are a 7-9 a.m. weekday newscast and a 9 p.m. nightly newscast that’s anchored by Chris Wragge and Dana Tyler—along with Richard Rose, a holdover from the pre-CBS days. (Rose anchored WLNY’s lone 11 p.m. news before.) While it airs on a Long Island station around 35 miles east of the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan, the news will be geared toward the whole of the New York market.

“We are giving them a very credible, well produced newscast at 9 p.m.,” says David Friend, senior vice president of news at CBS Television Stations.

The duopoly strategy is increasingly key to the CBS local game plan. Chicago now represents CBS’s only major market without a pair of stations.

The WLNY work force consisted of about 55 people pre-acquisition, CBS says. The staff numbers around 30 now, and will be around 55 again when fully staffed.

Rose says the acquisition is a big plus for WLNY: “We’ve always covered the tri-state, but we are astronomically improving our reach with the resources of CBS to back us up.”

Leading the charge is Betty Ellen Berlamino, who was a popular general manager at WPIX until her departure in June 2010. She later was hired by Dunn as a group senior VP of sales, focusing on the division’s non-CBS stations, and will give that up to be WLNY VP/station manager. Dunn calls Berlamino “one of the most experienced and respected” local TV execs in the New York market.

CBS will freshen up WLNY’s syndicated offerings to complement the news; the CBS execs are eyeing a court block for daytime. WLNY will retain a separate sales staff to foster competition, with eight bodies in Melville, N.Y., and seven in New York City.

WLNY is another local asset in the CBS New York group, which includes WCBS TV and radio properties WCBS 880, WFAN and 1010 WINS, and provides an option for staying live on breaking news while WCBS sticks to scheduled programming.

The acquisition has the CBS Television Stations principals energized. “Who gets a chance in New York to build a new station and new newscast?” Friend says. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”

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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.