New ABC O&O President Campbell Seeks to Grow Stations’ Digital Reach

Newly-minted ABC Owned Stations Group President Rebecca Campbell is ironing out her strategy, which includes honing the 10 stations’ multiplatform approach to distributing their leading content. The stations, including WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago and WTVG Toledo, are typically leaders in their markets, and Campbell says she’ll keep the focus on local news while extending their digital reach.

“More platforms mean more opportunities,” she says. “I’m a huge believer in localism. The next level is how best to distribute our content on all platforms—and monetize it.”

Campbell declined to offer details, as she’d only been promoted to group president May 19.

One growing digital asset within the ABC group is LiveWell HD, a multicast network programmed primarily by the ABC-owned stations. Some stations are producing new programs to add to the network’s fall lineup, such as WLS’ fix-it program Here’s How Right Now.

Campbell will be based in Burbank, meaning the WABC president/general manager job she held until last week is open. ABC expects to fill the position from within.

Campbell was a visible figure during WABC’s retransmission consent spat with Cablevision in March, and suggested ABC will continue to push for what it deems its fair share from pay-television operators. “When free over the air television is added to the cable lineup, we should share some of that money,” Campbell says. “It’s certainly something that we’re looking for as we move forward.”

Walter Liss has run the ABC-owned group since 1999, and will assist in the transition before departing altogether in what looks to be early 2011.

The year 2011 will also mark Oprah Winfrey’s departure from broadcast television; The Oprah Winfrey Show has been vital to the ABC-owned stations’ local news lead-ins, typically in early evening. Campbell says they’re fortunate to have plenty of time to come up with the best alternatives in markets where ABC owns a station. She says ABC will evaluate needs on a market-by-market basis. 

“It won’t be one mass decision,” she says. “Every station will look at what viewers want to see and the decision will be made based on what makes sense in that market.”

Campbell was quick to thank Liss for aiding in the transition, for his strong leadership, and for instilling in her a viewer-first philosophy. “Walter is the kind of leader everyone wants to learn from,” she says. “He leaves the group in excellent shape, but he will be missed.”

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.