Interesting news coming out of 30 Rock today, with Valari Staab, currently running ABC-owned KGO San Francisco, taking over the NBC Local Media station group in June, current stations president John Wallace moving to head up NBC Media Works for John Eck, and Eck leaving the company.
The ABC owned group looks like a pretty good breeding ground these days for group presidents. Rebecca Campbell was bumped up from WABC New York’s top job to the group head last spring, and now Staab takes over the NBC group. (WLS Chicago GM Emily Barr, meanwhile, helps oversee ABC’s Live Well Network, and surely has popped up on a few headhunters’ wish lists to run a group.)
I did a cover story almost two months ago offering up some suggestions for Steve Burke on what to do with the NBC owned stations. (I was happy to see #4–”Bring Back News Websites”–actually get implemented about a month ago, though I suspect that one was in the works for some time.)
The toughest point I made was #5, where I said to keep John Wallace on board. The industry insiders/industry watchers/people who follow this stuff closely that I trust were pretty much split on this one. Some said Comcast had made up its mind that there was to be a change at the top. Another popular viewpoint was that John Wallace’s hands were tied for much of his tenure as president, by a parent company without much love for local TV, and he might do well by the group with some support.
“He knows the stations from breaking them down,” said one source, “and he’ll know how to build them up. Let John prove himself in building mode.”
Instead, John will prove himself as president of NBCU Media Works, where he’ll be “responsible for the company’s technology and studio operations, including the areas of information technology, digital projects and services, sourcing, environmental health and safety, and crisis management. He will also oversee NBC Universal’s multi-million square-foot real estate portfolio, which includes Rockefeller Center in New York and Universal City in California,” said NBC in a statement.
Maybe it’s a better fit for Wallace, who came on board at NBC as a page back in 1988. Notable events at the station group during his tenure include launching the Nonstop digital channels, acquiring LX.TV, launching the stations’ content centers, debuting the Locals Only websites, and then going back to more traditional news websites recently. Wallace was one of the early ones to see stations as multipurpose, multiplatform local media outlets; he renamed the group NBC Local Media, from its previous NBC Owned and Operated Stations Group (that’s a mouthful!) in November 2007.
“Throughout her career in local television she’s had tremendous success growing the businesses she’s worked for and placing a premium on creating quality local news that resonates with viewers,” said Harbert in a statement. “She will do an outstanding job building on the great work of our Local Media group as we continue to invest in our stations and establish them as leaders in their markets.”Another point I made in that cover story was “Invest in News.” Time will tell how invested Comcast is in the local news game, but early reports suggest the company is committed.“They’re just going to operate them as they should be operated–as legit TV stations,” said one source. “They’re gonna get back in the game.”