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'Phil’ Boosted in Philly; DirecTV Offers Local HD

Dr. Phil is dishing out more tough love in Philadelphia. The King World-distributed talk show is getting double exposure on Viacom’s two stations there. CBS O&O KYW airs Dr. Phil weekdays at 5 p.m., and sister UPN station WPSG just started airing reruns weeknights at 10 p.m. WPSG’s episodes are not immediate encores but slightly older reruns.

Strengthening the UPN station is one of the duopoly’s top priorities. In addition to Dr. Phil, a new morning news show will debut later this month to help attract new viewers and entice advertisers.

The WPSG deal is an example of King World’s latest efforts to promote Dr. Phil. The distributor is angling for stations to give the show better time slots and more play. In Boston, Viacom-owned WSBK next week will replace its 10 p.m. newscast with encores of Dr. Phil, a week after episodes run on sister station WBZ. Young Broadcasting’s San Francisco independent KRON, which airs Dr. Phil at 9 p.m., is adding a 3 p.m. repeat the next day to enhance Bay Area exposure.

Another King World ambition is to move Phil into prized late-afternoon slots. Stations are contractually forbidden to run the show against Oprah, King World’s 4 p.m. powerhouse. The distributor is urging stations to air the talk show in a plum 5 p.m. slot.

That time slot is hardly new turf for Dr. Phil. About 20 stations, including the Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and Cleveland markets, already run it there. For some, however, adding a 5 p.m. dose of Phil means eliminating early-evening news, an important revenue source. One remedy is adding a 4 p.m. newscast, as KYW has done.

Looking to the future, Post-Newsweek’s Miami ABC affiliate WPLG poached Dr. Phil from CBS O&O WFOR for 2006 by offering a 5 p.m. slot. The station will drop its 5 p.m. newscast to make room. WPLG doesn’t have much to lose in early news. In the last two sweeps periods, its 5 p.m. news was a distant third among English-language stations, behind WFOR and Fox affiliate WSVN.

WPLG’s VP/GM David Boylan says Phil is a compelling alternative because Miami’s 5 p.m. news audience is crowded. “We have four English-language stations fighting for 15 rating points. Phil will push us into 6 p.m. with a strong lead-in.”

WFOR says Phil’s price tag was too rich. Now, says President/GM Michael Colleran, “we see a fantastic opportunity with one less news competitor at 5 p.m.”

WPLG is not adding a 4 p.m. newscast, but Boylan says the station will enhance other newscasts.

Directv: 12 Markets Get High-Def

DirecTV says subscribers in 12 large markets will receive local broadcast signals in HD by the middle of next year. The first markets—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C.—represent nearly 36 million homes, or 32.8% of all U.S. TV homes.

The DBS company now offers local stations in standard- definition in 130 markets. DirecTV says it will deliver more than 1,500 local HD signals and 150 national high-def channels by 2007. There is a hitch: To pick up local HD, customers will have to buy a new dish and updated set-top box. No word yet how much the new equipment will cost.

RTNDA Contest

One lucky broadcaster will win a new look—complete with a fresh set of music and graphics—courtesy of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

The group is holding a competition billed Extreme Makeover: Newsroom Edition for small- and medium-market stations, says RTNDA VP Rick Osmanski. Vendors such as Steven Arnold Music, the FX Group and Devlin Design Group may donate their services. RTNDA producers will document the makeover and present the results at April’s RTNDA@NAB convention in Las Vegas.

A new set can cost up to $1 million, a graphics package $70,000 and new music several thousand dollars. “Money is very tight. It costs a lot to achieve a big-market, sophisticated look,” says one Midwest news director.

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