STATION TO STATION - Broadcasting & Cable

STATION TO STATION

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Karpowicz Leads Meredith Group

Four months after former broadcast group President Kevin
O'Brien's stormy exit, Meredith Broadcasting has a new station-group chief.
Paul Karpowicz, most recently LIN Television Group's VP of television, joins
Meredith Feb. 14 to steer its 13 stations. Meredith is the 15th-largest U.S.
station group, with $321.9 million in revenue in 2003, according to
B&C's 2005 survey of the top 25
broadcast station groups.

In his new role, Karpowicz will report to Meredith President and COO
Stephen M. Lacy. O'Brien, a local-TV vet who once ran Cox Broadcasting's
KTVU San Francisco, was dismissed for violating the company's Equal
Employment Opportunity policies.

O'Brien's three-year tenure at Meredith was rocky: He dismissed
GMs and news directors at nearly every Meredith station. Since his departure,
VP of News Operations Micah Johnson has also exited, and Meredith has since
hired fresh news directors for two stations: WGCL and WHNS Greenville,
S.C./Ashville, N.C.

Karpowicz, who will be based in Hartford, Conn., is expected to be a
calming force. A 30-year local-broadcasting vet, he is well-regarded in the
station community. “He has an extensive background in news, programming,
sales initiatives and broadcasting transactions. Paul has outstanding industry
connections and is recognized for his integrity and leadership abilities,”
Lacy said in a statement.

Karpowicz won't comment on the group's recent troubles but says he
will emphasize local news and community involvement. “The biggest challenge
is to continue to make our stations relevant in an environment with more than
200 channels,” he says.

After starting his career in radio at LIN-owned WIL St. Louis,
Karpowicz moved to TV. He rose on the sales side, eventually managing WLNE
Providence, R.I., and LIN's WISH Indianapolis. LIN tapped him for a
corporate-level gig in 1994.

Meredith Wants K.C. Duopoly

In one patch of Meredith country, the broadcast group is trying to
extend its reach. The company filed for a waiver with the FCC to purchase
Sinclair Broadcasting's WB affiliate KSMO Kansas City, Mo., and forge a
duopoly with its own CBS affiliate KCTV.

Meredith already has a stake in the station: It handles ad sales.
Sinclair has agreed to sell for $33.5 million—$26.8 million for a controlling
interest and another $6.7 million if Meredith is awarded the KSMO license. But
current FCC rules limit a new duopoly in Kansas City, the No. 31 TV market.
Eight independently owned commercial stations must exist in a market. With
Sinclair gone, Kansas City would have six station owners.

Meredith's strategy is to secure a “failing-station” waiver. The
FCC will consider an exception to ownership rules if a station is struggling
financially and has a low audience share. The review process could take up to
18 months.

“Ratings and profits at KSMO have eroded in the last several years.
They are losing money,” says KCTV VP/GM Kirk Black, who also heads KSMO
sales. He says the station's revenue share has dropped from 10% to 6% in the
past several years, although he won't cite figures. Plus, ratings are
mediocre. In the latest November sweeps, KSMO ranked fifth out of seven rated
stations. Kansas City stations will take in a projected $174 million in revenue
this year, up slightly from $170 million in 2004, according to BIA
Financial.

To sweeten its pitch, Meredith will expand KSMO's local programming
with a 9 p.m. newscast, two weekend community-affairs shows, one teen-oriented
show, and four hours of educational kids' programs. Also, KCTV news staffers
would work on a new KSMO broadcast and provide breaking weather and news
reports. Although KCTV's news ratings are up, Black says a duopoly helps both
outlets. “We'd increase our employee ranks and revenues,” he says.
“Right now, we're on the outside.”

Send station news to
aromano@reedbusiness.com

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