Jan. 1, 2009, marked the official beginning of Local News Service, the joint newsgathering operation from Philadelphia stations WTXF and WCAU that jump-started the industry's pooling craze. A year onward, the principals say LNS is a success. “It's exceeded all expectations, and has allowed us to cover more stories and be in more places,” says WTXF VP/General Manager Patrick Paolini.
LNS recently tackled the Phillies' pursuit of star pitcher Roy Halladay. WCAU President/General Manager Dennis Bianchi says his crew was then able to chase down more signature stories: “It frees us up to focus on reporter packages and enterprise stuff.”
But ABC O&O WPVI continues to dominate. The station moved into a new 130,000-square-foot building in September and is working through the loss of sportscaster Gary Papa, who died in June, and meteorologist Dave Roberts, who retired on Dec. 11. President/General Manager Bernie Prazenica says WPVI stays ahead with subtle tweaks, such as a new Perceptive Pixel board similar to CNN anchor John King's Magic Wall. “The town doesn't like change, and we do well with that,” says Prazenica, who looks to enhance the viewer experience without shaking up the brand.
Yet there's loads of change in the No. 4 DMA. Paolini took over Fox O&O WTXF in September, when the station launched a 6 p.m. newscast. NBC O&O WCAU has nightly themes, such as sports and health, for its 5:30 news. CBS O&O KYW launched noon show Talk Philly in October and debuted 39 “digital newsstands”—featuring content from CBS' local TV and radio stations on HD screens around the city—in late November. “There's a stronger emphasis on localism with our TV and radio properties,” says President/General Manager Jon Hitchcock. “There's a lot of good opportunity as we look into the new year.”
Philly is home to a vibrant health-care community, numerous universities and Comcast, which has agreed to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal. Bianchi says the cable giant is well regarded locally. “They're fabulous corporate citizens,” he says. “I think it's great for NBC and good for broadcasting.”
WPVI won total day ratings in November, along with mornings, evenings and late news, its 7.6 household rating/14 share at 11 topping KYW's 6.7/12. WTXF won primetime. Other players include Univision's WUVP and Tribune's MyNetworkTV outlet WPHL, which airs a 10 p.m. news produced by WCAU and averaged an 8.2 household rating for its 2009 Phillies games. “That's a big number,” says VP/General Manager Vince Giannini.
As much as things change, other things stay the same. The Mummers paraded on New Year's Day, as they've done for centuries, and locals still demand the best from their leaders, athletes and news outlets. Says Paolini: “You've got to work hard every day to deliver outstanding news product.”