An ‘Eye’ on Local Media

CBS Television Stations is comprised of 16 O&Os representing the largest markets in the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and a dozen smaller outlets, including CW affiliates and independents. The stations boosted revenues 31% in the second quarter to $337.9 million, thanks to a vastly improved advertising picture driven by automotive spending, and a sharper local strategy.

WCBS New York President/General Manager Peter Dunn was named president of the station group in November 2009 and has focused on getting the CBSowned TV and radio stations to boost each other’s content offerings and sales in their common markets. CBS is rolling out joint Websites between TV and radio, such as and, in markets where it owns both. Dunn spoke with B&C Deputy Editor Michael Malone about what sets the CBS-owned stations, which include KCBS Los Angeles, WBZ Boston and KYW Philadelphia, apart from other groups.

How’s the TV and radio synergy working out in CBS’s local markets?

That’s been my life right now. It’s been a game-changer for us. It’s exciting to go around to our different markets with [CBS Local Media COO] Anton Guitano and [CBS Radio President/CEO] Dan Mason and see the great level of collaboration between the people at our TV and radio stations. This new spirit of cooperation is allowing our best assets to be featured on multiple platforms. For example, in New York, when a big news story breaks, it’s great to have reporters from WCBS 880 and 1010 WINS contributing to WCBS-TV’s coverage—and vice versa.

And we’re very excited about our new Websites, which are leveraging the power of our local assets. We look forward to, and their soon-to-be launched sister sites around the country being tremendous local online destinations.

How do you define a CBS-owned station?

If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “quality.” We’re privileged to be part of the number-one network with great programming across every day and night of the week. We’re really excited about the network’s fall schedule. We’re also fortunate to have all of the strong syndicated programming that comes from CBS Television Distribution.

Probably the most enjoyable part of my job so far has been going from market to market and getting to know so many of the people who work hard to make sure we succeed.

Many feel it’s a good time to buy stations. Is CBS looking to acquire?

Anything is possible, depending on the right situation. We’ll have to look at everything that comes up. It’s still a great business; I don’t see why, if something good came up, we wouldn’t explore it. But it’s not the top of the priority list right now.

You’ve promoted WCBS VP of News David Friend and WCBS Creative Services VP Bruce Brauer to the group level. What’s the philosophy behind that?

David and Bruce both have a ton of experience and know how to drive success in their respective areas of expertise. They are a tremendous resource for the people at our stations to tap into and collaborate with. You’re the WCBS GM in addition to being head of the station group. What’s it like, doing these two full-time jobs? Channel 2 is very close to me, so it’d be hard to give that up. People know when I come to their market that I do their job as well; I can learn from them, they can learn from me.

Election season is underway. Are you seeing a lot of political cash coming CBS stations’ way?

Political advertising has been strong so far this year, and it’s almost certainly going to really heat up in the next few weeks, as we have a lot of key races taking place in our biggest markets. The primary demographic for political is adults 35-plus. We’ve got great prime numbers and strong news numbers in those markets, so I think our share of business looks very good.

How big a part of the business can mobile be?

We’re currently more focused on the local initiatives we have going on, such as our market Websites and radio-TV synergies. But we’ve tested the technology and we’re looking at various business models to see what makes sense to us and the consumer. We’re watching the testing going on in DC—hopefully it’ll be a big success. There are some questions that nobody knows the answer to yet…such as rights issues and how we measure it. But we’re looking very closely at this.

The local TV business has had a rough couple of years. How do you feel about it long-term?

I feel strongly about the local TV business. I always have, even when things kind of went sideways on us last year. If people want to move products and the markets are healthy, the TV business is the first place they’re going to go to. I feel very comfortable and confi dent long-term.

The 4:30 a.m. local newscast is all the rage this fall. How invested are the CBS stations in the 4:30 a.m. slot?

Philadelphia launched September 6 and New York and Los Angeles launched September 7. Dallas, Minneapolis and Boston had already launched. It's done in the local market-it's not something that corporate says you have to do. Based on the competition and what you feel is important to your strategy, it's up to the individual station. Miami, Denver, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, along with San Francisco and Sacramento, have not committed yet.

People are getting up earlier and commuting from further away. We've always done it for special reports, but I'm glad we're doing it [regularly].

What's on your DVR?

I've been really focused on the local newscasts we have around the country. Obviously I'm a big fan of our 10 o'clock shows and I'm really looking forward to some of the new shows that are coming out. I think Hawaii Five-0 is going to be huge. But I think all of our shows are going to be big this year.

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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.