It was 20 years ago tonight. Not exactly. It was actually four days off, on Nov. 25, but what really matters is it was the night before Thanksgiving in 1998.
I had been producing the 11pm news at CBS affiliate WFSB-3 in Connecticut. It was my last newscast there, before moving to Philadelphia – and also the last weathercast for the legendary Hilton Kaderli, who retired that night.
In fact, Hilton and I just got off the phone. He and his family are doing great. He mentioned he had just been doing a bit of work in his study, and his wife is working on their Thanksgiving turkey as I publish this!
The reason for both of us leaving the same night was, back then, TV stations depended on Nielsen ratings. That company picked times around four months to measure viewership. Then, starting on a Thursday and ending on a Wednesday – every November, February, May and July – networks and stations would go all out to show you their best programming along with their sexiest, dirtiest, most dangerous and practically anything to get you to watch. No vacations were allowed, so the A-team would be on every newscast, every day and night.
In 1998 – for the first and last time, I believe – Nielsen ended the ratings period on the night before Thanksgiving rather than the week before, postponing or canceling news people’s vacation plans.
Stations still use those times to have their on-air people announce retirements, reveal health issues, and more to get you to watch – even though Nielsen now realizes there are more than four months in a year, and doesn’t ask randomly selected viewers to fill out diaries about what they watch anymore. Old habits are hard to break.
The 11pm news was arguably most important (financially, why else?) because it followed the network’s huge primetime audience, and had 35 minutes to fill commercials, rather than the typical 30 for a half hour. Stations would then sell ads based on the ratings for at least the next few months, while also looking at year-to-year. People’s jobs depended on good ratings.
This was my first job outside of Florida, my first time in New England cold and my first time living away from home (except for college).
Downtown Hartford was basically a dead center of a doughnut, but not the night before Thanksgiving. (Why weren’t we live from outside?) The day before Thanksgiving was still busy with travel. (Yes, we had a live picture.)
Since then, the station moved from there, two towns south to Rocky Hill. (Yes, Weathersfield and Rocky Hill are towns, while Hartford is a city!)
These days, Al Terzi – the dean of Connecticut TV news, who actually spent some time in West Palm Beach – moderates a weekly political show on WTIC-Fox 61. Denise D’Ascenzo is still at it at Channel 3 after 32 years (and will always be my shiksa sister!), but gets to drive home at a decent hour. No more Nightbeat for her! We can all see and hear Joe Tessitore on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
I thank Tom Lowell, Steve Sabato and Deborah Johnson for the opportunity. I followed Tom up from Miami.
Plus, my friend Megan Robinson who followed me up and started producing weekend mornings, before becoming an executive producer in Charlotte. We went to dinner every Sunday night in a different town so we could study the state we covered.
Reporters Dennis House (now anchoring and also blogging, so I get a weekly email to keep up with the area!), Jennifer Watson (in Atlanta), Melissa Francis (Fox Business) and Susan Raff (still there!) found news or followed up on developing stories, sometimes live so late and further away than they would’ve liked to have been.
Assignment editor Andre Hepkins left WFSB and returned as a reporter. Now, he’s a big-time anchor in Baltimore. And Dana Luby kept getting promotion after promotion and recently went from long-time news director of the station to its general manager! Plus, Mike Guerrieri (Vice President of Creative Services at NBC’s Miami station) with the prime-time teases that kept so many viewers up longer than they would’ve liked.
Of course, I’ll never forget the late, great newscast director Jeff Bright. And I’ll never be able to mention everyone whose work went into making the newscast such a success, so please forgive me.
We were a #1 team. I should’ve made more of it. Come to think of it, I think I fought like hell with every one of the people mentioned at least once (except Gayle)! Every one of cared that much and made each other better.
I mentioned I ended up moving to Philadelphia. I stayed six years, returned to Miami for some time before getting back to Philadelphia (for Part B, as this post’s title suggests).
Click here for how The Hartford Courant reported that day.
Now, to the video!
1 of 3: Lots of touches I remember starting, the New England Patriots’ move to Hartford(!), Hilton’s memories, and perhaps a record number of municipalities mentioned in the first tease instead of the typical three
2 of 3: Michael J. Fox reveals he has Parkinson’s and Hilton’s final forecast
3 of 3: Sports, Hilton’s final good-bye and classic clips
(Why didn’t I get an on-air mention after 19-1/2 months?)
Gayle King’s friend Oprah joins Hilton on weather in 1992
And click here to read and watch the most memorable moment in WFSB history (at least involving Hilton)!
If you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like this, this and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen
Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this reported at all by South Florida media. Yes, they’re still consumed and reeling from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, but this involves THEM, darnit, and they know it.
There was nothing in the Miami-Herald, Sun-Sentinel, or New Times about it, nor TV stations WSVN and WSFL which could be at the center of it.
It’s the possibility WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale may lose its Fox affiliation.
Of course, putting WSFL on the block goes against Sinclair trying to buy up stations in every city around the country – or just make a deal with the owners to operate them, to get around the rules. That’s because neither Sinclair nor Tribune have any other stations in Miami.
WSVN’s owner is Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. He inherited it. In case you didn’t know, I started my TV news career there.
From the sixth borough, in a New York minute: YES. There is no more partnership in television. Everything is just to make a buck. Don’t forget that. It’ll repeat over and over as you read.
Look at what happened on a Saturday in January, 1987. I remember returning from the synagogue, going to my grandparents’ condo, and reading in the Miami Herald business section that NBC was buying WTVJ-Channel 4 even though WTVJ was the CBS affiliate, and WSVN was the NBC affiliate. Both networks wanted to own stations in Miami, which was growing and close to Cuba for coverage when Fidel Castro’s government collapsed. (Now, 31 years later, Fidel is dead and we’re still waiting. Typical!)
Of course, NBC didn’t want to own a CBS affiliate and CBS didn’t want its affiliate owned by NBC, but there was a two-year affiliation agreement that had just started at the beginning of the year between NBC and WSVN.
Owner Ansin fought like hell and sued to keep his NBC affiliation since he had stayed with the network during the extremely lean years before The Cosby Show put the network back on the map in 1984.
Anyway, you would think CBS would end up affiliated with WSVN, but that’s not what happened. CBS owner Larry Tisch thought that if NBC bought WTVJ for $240 million and he can buy independent WCIX-Channel 6 for a quarter of that — just $60 million — then he got a bargain!
WCIX had its own 10pm news program but Tisch didn’t realize the importance that WCIX’s signal was 30 miles to the south of the other stations, and could not be seen in northern Dade (Miami-Dade came in the mid-1990s) or Broward counties.
In 1995, CBS lost a lot of stations to Fox. It really wanted stations. Westinghouse formed a joint venture before buying CBS, which left them with two stations in Philadelphia. The partnership kept Westinghouse’s KYW-TV, so in exchange for CBS’ WCAU, NBC gave CBS KCNC-Denver, KUTV-Salt Lake City, and also exchanged frequencies in Miami so its station would cover the entire market.
Before then, affiliation agreements tended to be two years. I mean, how could you sign an affiliation agreement that’s longer than an FCC license to broadcast? That would be chutzpah! And if the station got in trouble and had its license revoked, then there wouldn’t even be a station affiliate partner.
Ansin held out and ended up with the new Fox network. He also had his news director Joel Cheatwood throw everything at crime-heavy local news — in which he could keep all advertising money – with younger, cheaper workers, and surprisingly it stuck, so everyone involved became a hero, the station’s style was copied everywhere and many working there departed for new, higher-paying jobs. And WSVN was temporarily taken off some hotel cable systems, so not to scare tourists!
Then look at San Francisco. NBC wanted to buy its longtime affiliate, KRON. The network really, really wanted to buy it. In 1999, the deYoung family decided to sell and NBC threatened to take away the station’s 50+ year affiliation and make the station worth hundreds of millions of dollars less, if it didn’t get to buy the station. (Can you say steal, extortion, or shakedown?) Still, KRON’s owners sold to a higher bidder, Young Broadcasting. NBC ended up making several more demands, which Young turned down, so KRON turned independent after all those years, at the end of 2001. (Young was bought by Media General, which was bought by Nexstar.)
KNTV in San Jose was an ABC affiliate that network didn’t want competing with its own San Francisco station, KGO-TV, in San Jose anymore. It agreed to take money from the Alphabet network and go out on its own — but it offered to pay NBC to affiliate with it. (Just like at the end of 2014, NBC got rid of WMGM in Atlantic City so it wouldn’t compete with its own WCAU in Philadelphia, but that station’s owners got nothing. Unfortunately, times changed.)
NBC had to get a new station and reverse compensation was a new, tempting concept. The FCC reclassified KNTV from a Monterey-area station able to be seen in San Jose, to an actual San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland station.
But the affiliation only lasted long enough for permissions given and the ink to dry. Weeks before the start of 2002, NBC bought KNTV for a fraction of KRON’s price. Finally, in 2005 and against KRON’s objections, NBC moved KNTV’s signal 52 miles closer to San Francisco, so people there could actually watch Peacock programming over the air again. (NBC apparently didn’t care about those people too much!) Now, it can’t be seen over the air in San Jose, but reread the words I just put in italics in the parenthesis.
Other fiascos: KNTV was over the air on Channel 11 but aired on cable channel 3 (conveniently next to KRON-Channel 4). Some genius running the transition decided to brand the station NBC3, which confused people to the east watching NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento, also a Channel 3. Then it became NBC11. Then simply NBC Bay Area.
See what I mean? Watch KNTV news opens through the years, from city changes to affiliate changes to branding changes.
Now, take Boston from just last year. NBC wanted to own a station there. It insisted our old friend Ed Ansin sell his NBC affiliate WHDH-Channel 7 to them, just like it would’ve preferred back in Miami in the late 1980s. Anson refused yet again, saying NBC offered half what it was worth and trying to steal it.
(Yes, Ansin got back into business with NBC in Boston, rather than Fox, after CBS dropped WHDH, even after NBC dropped him in Miami. Why? To make money, of course!)
So in early 2016, NBC announced it would drop Ansin’s WHDH and start a new station called NBC Boston on New Year’s Day?
Where would that station be found? Nobody else was selling their station. NBC had ended up with New England Cable News, which was owned by Hearst and NBC parent company Comcast’s predecessor, until Hearst sold its share. Over the air, it already owned a weak Telemundo channel in the northern part of the market, WNEU-Channel 60 in New Hampshire. Its signal definitely wasn’t going to cover the entire Boston TV market over the public airwaves.
Ansin sued NBC again, claiming the poor people of Boston wouldn’t be able to watch NBC anymore, which kind of made him look like a monopolist. Lawmakers were also concerned, especially because if people had to buy cable to watch NBC, they would have to use Comcast which of course owns NBC! Regulations for fairness were put in place back when Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011. For example, Comcast’s cable service couldn’t benefit from the ability of viewers to receive the network over the air, and NBC Universal programming had to be made available to any competing cable operators in town.
This is what the network did in 2016:
— NBC bumped the Telemundo signal to a WNEU sub-channel, and put NBC on the main channel.
— It bought WBTS-LD (low-powered) Channel 8 (which it couldn’t make more powerful without interfering with channel 8s in New Haven, Conn. and Portland, Maine.
— It leased a subchannel of WMFP (virtual channel 60.5) in Lawrence, Mass.
So, by expanding NECN’s news department, it invented its own station out of nowhere!
That station, called WBTS-NBC Boston, went on the air Jan. 1, 2017. WHDH became an independent, added more news and lost some prominent people to the more prestigious NBC.
In 2018, NBC added a channel-sharing agreement with digital Channel 44, under the license of Channel 15, a CD station meaning low power analog often with a digital companion.
It also changed the branding to NBC10, which is like repeating the San Francisco-Sacramento issue, because Providence NBC affiliate WJAR — seen on cable in Boston’s southern suburbs — is powerful on Channel 10. We’ll see how long that lasts!
So Boston got an extra station and most lost viewers since the pie had an extra piece. Was it worth it for NBC, or should it have just kept its affiliation with WHDH?
So Anton got shot down by NBC again, this time in Boston, and that could lead to several other, minor network affiliation changes. For example, in 2006, Ansin bought a second Boston station, CW affiliate WLVI, coincidentally from Tribune. (Just the signal, but not the building or workers. Everyone was laid off, maybe even the producer who beat me for an Emmy Award back in 1997!) Warner Bros. and CBS own the CW Network, and the Tribune stations were a big part of the affiliates. Since Tribune doesn’t own WLVI anymore and CBS owns former UPN independent WSBK, the CW affiliation could move there. (More on this later!)
By the way, Ansin sold WLVI’s broadcast frequency in the FCC’s recent spectrum auction for an undisclosed amount that he told the Boston Globe was “a lot of money” (definitely hundreds of millions of dollars) and now that station shares WHDH’s channel.
There are several other examples:
In the mid-1990s, NBC decided to replace its Raleigh-Durham affiliate, WRDC-Channel 28, because it did poorly and didn’t carry all of NBC’s programs. That’s when The Outlet Company bought Channel 17, increased its power and changed its call letters to WNCN. Plus, there was already a relationship. Outlet owned powerful NBC affiliates in Providence (mentioned just above) and also Columbus, Ohio.
After a year, Outlet sold all three stations to NBC but that only lasted a decade. Repeat after me: It’s the money, and not what’s best for the viewer or community. In 2006, NBC sold all three stations plus its station in Birmingham to Media General. (Yes, that was NBC selling stations, the opposite of what this post is about!) The Media General time also lasted just a decade. NBC decided to affiliate with the more powerful WRAL, and WNCN soon became a CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar, after that company bought Media General.
Around the same time, NBC planned to sell its Miami station, WTVJ – weaker on Channel 6 after the dial swap – to Post-Newsweek, then the owner of ABC affiliate WPLG. That never panned out, despite both stations saying it would.
WPLG said it was going to happen:
WTVJ said it was going to happen:
Remember the rule about a company owning two of the four most powerful stations in a city.
And Fox played hardball to get a station in Charlotte, home of the NFL’s Panthers which started playing in 1995. One-time ABC affiliate WCCB-Channel 18 was one of Fox’s strongest affiliates and it had (and still has) its own news department.
Despite that, in 2013, Fox announced it was going to buy CW affiliate WJZY-Channel 46. The switch happened less than six months later. WCCB turned to the CW after 27 years with Fox. It’s now one of just three CW affiliates in the eastern time zone with its own newscasts, the others being New York and Indianapolis’ former CBS affiliate.
On the other hand, Fox’s WJZY carried 10pm newscasts from competing stations until starting its own newscasts in mid-December. The station tried experimenting but things didn’t go well, its news was ranked fifth in the time period and there was staff turnover from the top, down. Eventually, it became more traditional and a friend from Philadelphia became its news director.
So networks can create stations out of practically nothing, as we just saw Fox do.
Consider Los Angeles. The CW in there is KTLA, which is owned by Tribune and would be owned by Sinclair. There’s no reason Warner Bros. and CBS would keep the CW affiliation there when CBS has an independent station, KCAL, that could use it.
In Miami, if Fox buys WSFL, the CW affiliate now owned by Tribune could become a Fox affiliate if the network decides to drop WSVN. Then, WSFL’s CW affiliation would likely NOT go to WSVN but to WBFS, which is owned by CBS and a My Network TV affiliate, for what that’s worth. (Not much.) And that syndication service is owned by Fox!
Would WSVN, dropped by Fox, become an affiliate of My Network TV, which is owned by Fox? Highly unlikely, I think. My Network TV doesn’t do well, Ansin would be angry, and even though he went back to NBC in Boston, My Network TV isn’t NBC.
Keep in mind, there are also examples where networks own stations but don’t put their own programs on those stations, because affiliating with competing stations makes more sense.
CBS owns Channel 44 in Tampa, but affiliates with Tegna’s Channel 10. It owns Channel 69 in Atlanta but affiliates with Meredith’s Channel 46. It owns Channel 11 in Seattle but affiliates with Cox’s Channel 7 (but it did air CBS on 11 for a few years.) It used to own Channel 34 near West Palm Beach but affiliates with Sinclair’s Channel 12.
Even in 1958, when CBS owned Channel 18 in Hartford, Conn., some viewers could watch CBS better on Boston and Providence stations, so it affiliated with Channel 3 (then WTIC-TV; now WFSB, where I went after leaving WSVN) and sold its Channel 18.
You get the picture. So who brings more to the table? WSVN can use CNN for news and not depend on Fox. Anything can happen, but you know what my money is on.
And please, if you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get an email whenever I publish.
Something on my drive home from New York, Tuesday night, told me to write this post.
According to The Daily News, “You asked me if I was ok with you doing sports from Florida. I said I was. We tried it. It sucks,” Imus emailed shortly before Wolf’s final appearance on Nov. 4. “If you’re in the studio in New York … it’s terrific. Anything else is not.”
Keep in mind, Imus himself left the Big Apple a year earlier, in 2015, to live on a Texas ranch! The rest of the crew works in New York.
This is the background: Imus worked for several New York stations — “up and down the dial,” as WKRP in Cincinnati’s theme song lyrics go — and also in different cities. He was fired from WNBC-660 AM in 1977 but rehired in 1979, where Stern was his co-worker for a few years. Imus stayed as the station became WFAN-660 AM and lasted all the way until 2007. In the 1990s, the show became nationally syndicated and also began simulcasting on MSNBC.
(The three major networks’ radio stations have been sold off: The NBC radio stations under new owner General Electric in the late 1980s, although Westwood One — owner of Mutual Broadcasting System — bought the NBC Radio Network name. Then, Westwood One entered into an operations agreement with Infinity Broadcasting, which CBS parent Westinghouse bought, so all the stations became combined and CBS Radio people produced “Mutual” and “NBC”-branded newscasts! NBC News Radio broadcasts returned and they’ve been produced by iHeartMedia since last year. By the way, ABC sold off its division to Citadel Broadcasting — now part of Cumulus Media — in 2007, and CBS Radio was just sold to Entercom this past November, 2017.)
Oct. 7, 1988: WNBC-TV reporting live at the end of WNBC-660 AM after 66 years. Roger Grimsby worked for WNBC-TV at the time. The TV station had to dump out of his recorded piece to catch the last seconds before the switchover. Weatherman Al Roker interviews Imus at a rainy Shea Stadium since WFAN was and is all-sports. It was a different and much better world when stations and on-air talent were allowed to have distinct personalities. Now, everything looks the same — city to city — but I’ve gone off on corporate ownership here, here, here and here (starting with the most recent).
Wolf became famous doing local sports at his hometown Washington, DC’s WTOP-TV.
The outcry over Wolf’s firing got him hired by WABC-AM, where he worked on a show with Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa, and defense and civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby.
In the meantime, WFAN fired the controversial, irreverent, insulting Imus in 2007. Imus had made racist and sexist comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team (“nappy-headed hoes” and more). Got all that?
Months later, Imus was hired by WABC-AM — reunited at the same station as Wolf — and after about two weeks, Wolf became his sportscaster again!
Wolf was replaced with another colorful sportscaster, Sid Rosenberg, who is only in his early 50s. The Miami Herald’s Greg Cote referred to Rosenberg with the phrase “drugs, alcohol and gambling leading to a history of erratic behavior, suspensions and firings.”
Whatever you say about Rosenberg, he has been back and forth between New York and Florida.
Rosenberg worked in West Palm Beach and in 2000, returned to New York at WNEW-FM 102.7, which has since changed formats.
After that, he worked mornings at WFAN on Imus — ironically with Wolf — but there was trouble on the set in the studio. After a few months, Rosenberg added duties as co-host of the midday show.
He was controversial on Imus — with remarks about the Williams sisters, tennis players and the U.S. women’s national soccer team — but fired after making crude remarks about Australian singer Kylie Minogue’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Both pictures from MySpace
With Yankees great Jim Leyritz
Rosenberg found himself back in Florida — at Miami radio station WAXY-790 AM The Ticket for four years — but still, he called in to WFAN and even served as a substitute sportscaster! It was Rosenberg who reported on Rutgers in 2007, which led to Imus and his producer’s remarks, and their firings.
“According to police, Rosenberg — the WQAM-AM (560) host whose license hath been suspended thrice — was really, really drunk when he said he was on his way home from Tootsie’s Cabaret, the Miami Gardens full-nudity strip club. … Two Hollywood police officers found Rosenberg sitting in the driver’s seat of his 2011 GMC Yukon — the driver’s side door was open, and the engine was running. Oh, and he was parked in the middle of 63rd Avenue. They called a third officer, Jon Cooke, who ended up writing the police report.”
Then scroll through and read details from the Booking Report.
“When I arrived, I discovered the arrestee laying on the ground behind his vehicle. He was in the fetal position, with his fingers in his mouth. He appeared to be attempting to induce himself to vomit. I noticed vomit on his clothes, as well as inside and next to the driver door of his vehicle. I noticed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath and person. His speech was extremely slurred and he was crying. His face was flushed and his eyes were bloodshot.”
He was also charged with driving with a suspended license. It was his first offense on each count.
That’s when he ended up at Palm Beach sports radio station WMEN-640 AM.
Rosenberg stayed until becoming co-host of The Bernie and Sid Show on — you guessed it — WABC-AM! That was in January, 2016. In November, he replaced the fired Wolf on Imus.
But last month, Imus announced the show would air its final episode on March 29.
What a crazy business! It has to be, with such crazy people.
Gayle King had to work her own job (which definitely meant anchoring the 5:30pm news and probably included planning the nationally syndicated Gayle King Show) and then fill in with Al Terzi at 11pm.
I don’t remember talking details at the time but I suppose she went home, fed her children, and put them to bed. Then, she’d head back to the station for the second time, looking presentable, and trusting the Nightbeat news team to be accurate and make her look good.
It was never hard making Gayle look good.
Just before Denise returned, it was the end of the May ratings period (“sweeps”) and leave it to Gayle — she had a full dinner catered for all her co-workers. (Do you know how many people it takes to run a station and put on a newscast?) I don’t remember plastic nor styrofoam. I can hardly imagine her eating off of those.
She had invitations made (on top, because we had no external email), and singled Al and me out. That was 20 years (and 4 days) ago. I forgot to post it on Sunday. (You know, work.)
But that’s Gayle for you!
I’ve worked with many brilliant, patient people who have taken time to teach me a lot over the years.
This was one unique memory and a lesson on appreciation. For that, I’m grateful — and yes, should remember to be a lot more often. It was a good group of people having good times.
(By the way, in case you haven’t heard, such a deserving person managed to go on to bigger and better.)