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David Friend: CBS Stations' Ally in Corporate

Promoted to group senior VP of news in August, with oversight of the CBS-owned stations’ news output, David Friend aims to spark major ratings growth across the group the way he has as news director at WCBS New York. Friend is on the lookout for what’s working particularly well at one station—a signature investigative report, a catchy promotion—and plans to spread that magic through the group.

“I spend a significant portion of my day getting input from the other news directors,” he says. “It lets me see what the best practices are, incorporate some of them, and in turn give them things that have been successful here.”

He’s helped launched CBS’ Share Point intranet site, which allows everyone in the group to see which stories are coming up at all the O&Os. A similar Web concept, Persona, aims to keep prized talent within the group. Stations can now better allocate resources and sharing of content. Ratings-grabbing reports in one market are often recast with a local spin elsewhere.

“Some stories translate well market-to-market,” Friend says. “With minor alterations and additional interviews, it can be customized.”

Several WCBS managers have advanced to corporate, with Peter Dunn moving up to CBS Television Stations president last year. Dunn was impressed by Friend’s work at WCBS—a No. 2 or No. 3 in recent years, the outlet now rivals longtime leader WABC in the key news races. “The quality of [WCBS’] newscasts has significantly improved during the four years David’s been here, as have ratings,” says Dunn. “With his experience and eye for talent, it makes perfect sense to have him work with our entire group.”

Friend is also driving CBS’ enhanced local strategy, in which its local TV and radio properties work more closely in a shared market. And he is a vital liaison between the stations and CBS News, which increasingly share content and talent. With CBS’s surging primetime and the savvy Friend overseeing the newsrooms, the stations are primed for 2011. “It’s about sharing resources, sharing talent, and keeping an eye out for the best possible people in the group,” says Friend. “The CBS stations have the reach, and it’s my job to leverage that power.”

Michael Malone
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.