CBS's Secret Flies on WB
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/30/2003 7:00:00 PM
All those Victoria's Secret models needed their wings in Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark., given the journey the CBS special took in that market.
The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which, in keeping with the finest lingerie traditions, features more skin than cloth, aired Nov. 19 on CBS.
One station that didn't air it, however, was KTHV(TV) Little Rock. After a flurry of complaints last year, station President and General Manager Larry Audas decided to clip its wings in the interests of programming to his audience, replacing it with a locally produced holiday special. "We're really pleased with what CBS does, but, in this unusual and isolated case, our audience had voiced their loud disapproval."
CBS tried to keep it in the family, offering the special to the UPN affiliate, Clear Channel's KASN(TV), which opted not to take it. Why not? Vice President and General Manager Chuck Spohn says he had no problem with the show's content but the station is trying to build a new syndicated programming block at 9-11 and he didn't want to replace back-to-back Fresh Prince sitcoms at nine with the special. "We're only given 20 days in the sweeps to find a niche with viewers, and the break from that one day could be detrimental," he said. "So much rides in these diary markets on the sweeps that taking that one show on a quick turnaround wasn't a good business decision for us."
CBS then approached The WB affiliate, Equity Broadcasting's KWBF(TV), which also was concerned with sweeps performance but saw the special as a plus. KWBF General Manager Vincent Baresi considered the show a good fit with the station's younger demo. The station pulled syndicated games Fifth Wheel and Blind Date to make room.
Frank White, corporate director for advertising and promotion at Equity Broadcasting, launched a "press-release barrage" to get the word out on the switch. "We saw it as something that could do a number" in the sweeps.
Did the move pay off? The story got a lot of good local press, White says, adding that he'll have to wait until December to find out since it's a Nielsen diary market.
Speaking of December, it turns out that KASN will get the show after all. CBS said last week that it will be repurposing—or, in Little Rock's case, purposing—the special on Dec. 16 on UPN. "Now we've got time to plan it and sell it," said Spohn.
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