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Market Eye: Big News on the Biggest Stage

The New York stations have undergone more management changes of late than the 1970s-era Yankees. In the past several weeks, Betty Ellen Berlamino was let go from WPIX, Michael Jack was named general manager of WNBC, and Dave Davis came back to run WABC after a stint at ABC News.

WCBS chief Peter Dunn has retained his stewardship of the CBS O&O after being named president of the network-owned station group late last year. “I like the fact that I’ve still got my hands involved in New York,” he says.

As the song says, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Former WABC President/ General Manager Rebecca Campbell was named president of ABC’s owned station group, succeeding the retiring Walter Liss. Recent WNBC chief Tom O’Brien now heads NBC Local Media’s Nonstop digital channel division.

Davis was WABC’s GM from 2003 to 2007, and he’s tasked with keeping the station top of the heap. His plan includes a greater emphasis on mobile products, and better sharing with the network, whose corridors Davis knows well.

With seasoned bureaus throughout the tristate area, WABC took all the major household races in May, except for primetime, which went to Fox-owned WNYW. WNBC is runner-up in mornings, while WCBS is No. 2 in most races. WABC won the 11 p.m. contest with a 5.4 rating/ 10 share, ahead of WCBS’s 4.5 rating/8 share. Yet BIA/Kelsey reports WNBC’s $223.3 million in 2009 edged WABC’s $218.5 million.

Networks own the Big Four stations, and Univision owns WXTV, which posts strong numbers at 6 and 6:30 p.m. with its Spanish- language newscasts. In terms of duopolies, Univision has the local TeleFutura, NBC owns Telemundo affiliate WNJU and Fox has MyNetworkTV outlet WWOR. Tribune’s CW affiliate WPIX and WGN America share a building.

Time Warner Cable’s NY1 News doggedly covers the city’s weather, politics and transit issues. NY1 debuted a free iPhone app in late May.

A content-sharing operation between CBS, Fox, NBC and Tribune reached its first anniversary in June. The participating GMs say it frees up their newsrooms for more signature stories.

It’s tough standing out in attention-deficient New York, which fosters innovation at the stations. WNYW is testing The Kilborn File and debuts Huckabee July 26. Come fall, WWOR moves Wendy Williams from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. “We think there’s a void in programming at that time,” says VP/General Manager Lew Leone.

Tribune Broadcasting President Jerry Kersting is running WPIX while he interviews candidates. The station attracted eyeballs with cash giveaways during the May sweeps, a stunt it may try again. “We’re always trying new things, and contesting is one of them,” says President of Programming Sean Compton. Another is a 4 a.m. news that debuts on WPIX in September.

CBS is launching in the coming weeks, which will combine its local TV and radio outlets; the latter include WFAN and WINS (see sidebar). The station is considering a 4:30 a.m. news, too. “We’ll see if it’s needed,” says Dunn. “If it is, we’ll do it.”

Michael Jack comes from WRC Washington. He’s considering a version of WRC’s video clip show Daily Connection for WNBC, and is pushing his crew to offer standout content on WNBC’s myriad platforms: “We’re finding ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”

While everything else in New York is outsized, general managers say the pending political season largely lacks the billionaires it’s had in recent races. “There will be some issues money,” Leone says, “but it won’t be a windfall.”

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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.