CBS Has Big Plans For Little WLNY

Network-owned group fixes up $55 million pad out on the Island

Suburban WLNY NEW YORK is
getting some big-city upgrades, including
hi-def, more local news and a
big-name station manager, now that the CBS
Television Stations’ $55 million acquisition
has closed. CBS agreed to buy the independent
station from WLNY Holdings in December—
getting a rare duopoly in the most
major of markets.

WLNY flipped the switch on HD March
30, and will kick off three hours of daily local
news in late June or July. “This gives us a lot
of growth potential in the New York market,”
says Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television
Stations. “Having an independent like WLNY
gives us the freedom to do anything and everything
to make the station more appealing
to more people across the entire tri-state area.”

Foremost among the improvements are
a 7-9 a.m. weekday newscast and a 9 p.m.
nightly newscast that’s anchored by Chris
Wragge and Dana Tyler—along with Richard
Rose, a holdover from the pre-CBS days.
(Rose anchored WLNY’s lone 11 p.m. news
before.) While it airs on a Long Island station
around 35 miles east of the CBS Broadcast
Center in Manhattan, the news will be geared
toward the whole of the New York market.

“We are giving them a very credible, well
produced newscast at 9 p.m.,” says David
Friend, senior vice president of news at CBS
Television Stations.

The duopoly strategy is increasingly key to the
CBS local game plan. Chicago now represents
CBS’s only major market without a pair of stations.

The WLNY work force consisted of about
55 people pre-acquisition, CBS says. The staff
numbers around 30 now, and will be around
55 again when fully staffed.

Rose says the acquisition is a big plus for
WLNY: “We’ve always covered the tri-state,
but we are astronomically improving our reach
with the resources of CBS to back us up.”

Leading the charge is Betty Ellen Berlamino,
who was a popular general manager at
WPIX until her departure in June 2010. She
later was hired by Dunn as a group senior VP
of sales, focusing on the division’s non-CBS
stations, and will give that up to be WLNY
VP/station manager. Dunn calls Berlamino
“one of the most experienced and respected”
local TV execs in the New York market.

CBS will freshen up WLNY’s syndicated
offerings to complement the news; the CBS
execs are eyeing a court block for daytime.
WLNY will retain a separate sales staff to foster
competition, with eight bodies in Melville,
N.Y., and seven in New York City.

WLNY is another local asset in the CBS
New York group, which includes WCBS TV
and radio properties WCBS 880, WFAN and
1010 WINS, and provides an option for staying
live on breaking news while WCBS sticks
to scheduled programming.

The acquisition has the CBS Television
Stations principals energized. “Who gets a
chance in New York to build a new station
and new newscast?” Friend says. “It’s a once
in a lifetime thing.”

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