There's a major change coming to the powerhouse station in Miami, and it’s got nothing to do with on-air talent or a new owner.
Robert Leider, executive VP and general manager of WSVN, is stepping back from the day-to-day management after 40 years with the station. Chris Wayland, GM at Sunbeam TV sibling WHDH Boston, is taking over as group executive VP. Leider is staying on as VP and consultant, and says the station will be fine. “It’s going to be really good for our company,” he says, citing Wayland’s leadership skills.
There has already been considerable general manager turnover in the everevolving Miami market. Bert Medina was named GM at WPLG last October. Larry Olevitch took the reins at WTVJ in January.
WTVJ has undergone the most dramatic turnaround of any station in NBC’s owned group, Valari Staab, NBCUniversal Owned Stations president, said in a recent interview. WTVJ launched an eight-person investigative team and has added 10 hours of news per week in recent years, including a 4:30 a.m. program coming out of last winter’s Olympics. “The staff is walking around with their heads up, looking forward, not behind,” says Olevitch.
WTVJ works closely with Telemundo sister WSCV, whichwill run a particularly pertinent investigative story from WTVJ. Fully 49% of Miami-Ft Lauderdale residents are of Hispanic origin, according to BIA/Kelsey. Michael Rod-riguez, VP and general manager at Univision’s WLTV-WAMI, calls Spanish-language the mainstream. The Univision stations cover stories that their English-language counterparts might consider too international, he says, such as strife in Venezuela. “It’s almost impossible to go through a local newscast without seeing an international story,” he says of WLTV.
WSVN led the market with estimated revenue of $105.9 million in 2013, says BIA/Kelsey, well ahead of WPLG’s $71.1 million. WSVN thrives with crossover appeal, says Leider, attracting English, Spanish and bilingual speakers to its graphics-intense, eye-catching news content. “Viewers know, when a big story breaks, we’re the one to turn to,” he says.
In March, Berkshire Hathaway agreed to acquire ABC affiliate WPLG from Graham Holdings. CBS owns O&O WFOR and MyNetworkTV station WBFS. Tribune has CW outlet WSFL. Besides Telemundo and Univision, Spanish-language channels include WJAN and WSBS. DMA No. 16’s primary subscription TV operator is Comcast.
Demo-focused WSVN easily won morning news in the May sweeps, while WSCV took early evening, primetime and 11 p.m.—its 4.9 household rating/9.1 share ahead of WLTV’s 3.5/6.5 and WPLG’s 3/5.7. (WSVN put up a 3.3 for its 10 p.m. news). WSCV also wins the late news adults 25-54 race. WPLG won the total-day household ratings derby.
Stations are hustling in what may be the most competitive market in the U.S. WTVJ rebranded as NBC 6 South Florida from NBC 6 Miami. WFOR aired a special on hurricane preparedness, Surviving the Storm, May 28. It also publishes a hurricane guide available on the station site and in grocery stores. “We see it as our responsibility to keep people diligent,” says Adam Levy, WFOR VP/GM.
Univision offers three hours of local morning news: 5-7 a.m. on WLTV and another hour on UniMás station WAMI. Rival WSCV swapped out the lightweight 6 a.m. Buenos Dias Miami for a meatier extension of its morning news. WSCV also is enjoying substantial resources from parent Comcast. “I’ve been here over 20 years, and it’s the first time I’ve seen such commitment to localism,” says Jorge Carballo, president and general manager.
Leider, 70, says WSVN won’t skip a beat as he steps away Sept. 1. He also notes that he won’t be out of the picture by a long shot. “I think, as long as I have a breath,” Leider says, “I’ll be involved with WSVN.”
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WSCV was the first station in Telemundo’s owned group to debut Telemundo Responde, which advocates on behalf of viewers. Launching earlier this year, Dallas-based Responde fields consumer complaints, with local reporters chasing down tips in their markets. “We think a central consumer group is the right way to go on the Spanish-language side because so often people try to take advantage of [viewers] because English is not their first language,” Valari Staab, NBCUniversal Owned Stations president, said of Responde in a recent interview with B&C.
Myriam Masihy works with both WTVJ’s I-team and WSCV’s Responde unit. “It’s exclusive reporting, dedicated to consumers,” says Jorge Carballo, WSCV president/GM.