Wood Tidings We Bring

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TV as festively burning holiday screen-saver appears to be catching on.

From New York to L.A., Miami to Minneapolis, TV stations are dropping their regular programming for some part of Christmas Day to air a loop of a burning Yule Log, accompanied by holiday music.

That warm crackle that used to be associated with TV tubes firing up in living room behemoths of yesteryear is back in the form of a warm-looking, crackling-fire video on 13 Tribune stations, including WPIX New York, the granddaddy of video hearths, plus at least two more stations with their own wood supplies.

The relative newcomers are Hubbard's KSTC-TV in chilly Minnesota, in its second year of log-rolling, and now Viacom's KCAL in sunny Los Angeles, with its first running of the wood memorial.

In addition to broadcast airings, Tribune's log will get national cable play at 1:30 a.m. on superstation WGN, and Web surfers can snuggle up to the CRT with an online version at www.wb11.com.

In fact, the Web is a big reason that Tribune revived the holiday tradition. WPIX first tried bringing the log back in an online-only version in 2000. The site was swamped. The next Christmas, GM Betty Ellen Berlamino decided to relight the TV fire, this time on Christmas Day. The log won its time period as a two-hour program its first two years. It expanded to four hours last year, but was unable to hold onto the top spot.

The log on Hubbard-owned independent KSTC Minneapolis-St. Paul will burn the longest, with the station preempting all regular programming from 7 p.m. Christmas Eve to 7 p.m. Christmas Day, to air 24 hours worth of wood tidings.

KCAL will offer up its log for three hours, from 6 to 9 a.m., Christmas morning, simulcasting Christmas music from KOST-FM there. KCAL has tapped parent Viacom for some promotional push, including a billboard, "Yule Watch," near L.A. International Airport

WPIX, whose log burned brightly between 1966 and 1989, then returned in 2001, will burn its log for four hours. Its value added: A high-definition version for digital viewers.