Tuesday, September 12, 2006

NYT selling WNEP, other stations

WNEP is now for sale. The New York Times Company announced today it will sell its broadcast group, which includes the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ABC affiliate and several other stations across the U.S. A tipster says general manager C. Lou Kirchen gathered employees today to break the news.

Will a new owner mean big changes at WNEP? From experience, new owners do like to make sweeping changes with their just-purchased stations. We'll have to wait and see.

47 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, could this be 'YOU or 'BRE's chance to get in the lead. I doubt it, but I do think that WNEP needs new lower thirds. I'm in Pittsburgh right now, and I really like WTAE's graphics including their moving logo. Other than that, I don't think anything to big will happen to WNEP

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you've got that pegged: a new owner's top priority SHOULD be new supers!

Howard, I know you screen out the obscene and the libelous. Any chance you could protect us from shallow idiots, too?

We won't know what will happen to WNEP until we see who buys it, but the conventional wisdom would have to be that anyone who can afford the price is smart enough to spend enough to keep 16 on top.

Nexstar bought crap, got crap and does crap. Whoever buys WNEP will be getting top-of-the-line and will likely keep it that way. It just makes sense. Dollars and sense.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember what happened when the NYT bought NEP in the 80's. They paid 40 million and built a new facilty. They kept management and the staff---Why? When it's not broken DO NOT fix it ;-)
If a new owner tinkers for the sake of tinkering---things could get out of whack!

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Nexstar will buy NEP, and thereby free BRE/YOU from their bondage.


I can dream, can't I?

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, maybe the new corporate owner will come up with a "new" news concept. Hey, how bout an "I" team! Or maybe dialing for advertisers.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

Howard said: From experience, new owners do like to make sweeping changes with their just-purchased stations.

One thing they'll have to do is turn on the lights in Master Control and fire up whatever machines they use now to play all those syndie shows. They can't depend on Virginia to fill their broadcast day anymore, unless that is part of the package.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bottom line: if it ain't broke, DON'T fix it! With WNEP safely in the top slot, it would be incredibly foolish to fiddle with it. With the ratings they have, they must be doing something right! Let's hope any new owners realize this and don't try any "new" ideas to "improve" what works in this market.

11:12 PM  
Blogger David Yonki said...

This is news that confirms just how business in America is today. To be owned by the New York Times, well you'd think that would be solid as granite. It is a reflection of how the economics of a corporation works. Was WNEP making too much profit for the Times? Too little? Did the Times sell the stations to support other areas of their business plan? All these questions are fodder for a good business primer or at least an extended investagative piece on CNBC. Where have you gone, Tom Shelbourne, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo...

Yonkstur

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand they'll scale back that horribly restrictive no-fraternization policy

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand they'll scale back that horribly restrictive no-fraternization policy
6:28 AM


Really? Which "they" are you talking about? The new owners? If you know who "they" are and what their policies are, please identify them for the rest of us.

Meantime, WNEP employees, keep your hands to yourselves. Don't dip your pen in company ink.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD OF BROADCAST JOURNALIMS, WNEP STAFF!!!!

Yes, new management WILL make changes if/when it comes in. No one's job is protected. (I for one would find a new morning reporter who should be out covering a major fire in a downtown instead of clowning around with the morning weather dork on air.)

You will not find a better owner than NYT (so get used to someone not as good.) Your cozy cocoon of NYT bliss is over.

Don't think for a minute that slick Perry Sook isn't licking his chops right now trying to see how it would be possible for Nexstar to own 16. (He knows his way around regulations and laws).

We are in a business where "If you're not looking (for a job), then you should be."

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember when the Shelburne family sold WNEP to the NYT: "Oh, woe is us. It's the end of the world. OUTSIDERS, corporate greed-heads, have bought our precious station and nothing will ever be right again."

The Times turned out to be slightly more than OK as an owner (that's sarcasm, kiddies).

I'll reserve judgement until the new buyer shows up.

You can bet it WON'T be Perry Sook. He buys Pintos and drives them until the wheels fall off. What makes you think he'd buy a Porsche?

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sook looking to buy WNEP?
Are you people so retarded or hate him so much that you think he would or even could?
God, it's amazing some of you are actually "journalists". I use that term lightly with people that work in NEPA. The coal has ruined your brains.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smart, very smart money (and lots of it) will buy WNEP. It's historic dominance and profitability assure stability for sales and talent, unlike painful surgery performed recently on the other perpetual bottom-feeders in NEPA. While the rest of us might wish we worked at 16, claims that a new buyer will gut it, or that Nexstar might get it, are the stuff of jealosy and naivite.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a NEP insider: She says management met with some of the employees this morning.
They were told NEP's worth on the market---at least---100 million plus!
To buy all the stations as a package? about a half a BILLION!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

Maybe Nexstar will buy NEP, and thereby free BRE/YOU from their bondage.

I can dream, can't I?


Better keep dreaming. I highly doubt Nexstar would even make an offer for WNEP. One, the FCC would frown on it; two, Nexstar couldn't afford it.

From a NEP insider: She says management met with some of the employees this morning.
They were told NEP's worth on the market---at least---100 million plus!
To buy all the stations as a package? about a half a BILLION!


Think that's a lot? I recall back around 2001, when Young Broadcasting made an unheard-of offer for San Francisco's KRON: somewhere around $700 million. They even outbid NBC, who wanted to turn the affiliate into an O&O.

The joke ended up on Young, though. NBC yanked KRON's affiliation, and cost-cutting forced Young to replace everyone with one-man bands. The station is now a shell of what it used to be.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, new owners always make sweeping changes upon moving in. Is the 'NEP staff worried ? I think they should be.

As stated above, this is certainly a sign of the economy in this area. WNEP is a big-market station in a small market economy, and they spent like it. NYT sunk a lot of money into them as if there was no tomorrow. Did WNEP's advertising draw even with all that money spent ? Probably not. Not in this market.

The new owner(s) will more than likely not have the deep pocketbooks NYT once had. I would expect a lot of things WNEP has done for years would gradually change or be phased out, or just diminished.

The trick is to fool the viewers. Can 16 get away with major changes without the people noticing ? Chances are they will get away with it for at least a while. People in this area are sadly brainwashed by 16 to the point of not knowing any better.

It also takes a while to sell a station and make it legal..etc..So it probably won't be for another 2 years before we really see the impact of a NYT-less WNEP.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

When I was the radio/tv writer at the CV, WDAU was for sale. As I recall it, the going value for 16 and 28 was in the area of $22m, more or less. WDAU was a mess at the time, and fetched only $12m. Times have changed.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

High and mighty WNEP?

WBRE kicked NEP's ass two nights in a row and I can't believe it!!!

BRE at 11 is usually something to laugh at... but Tuesday night they have a huge fire in Stroudsburg... 16 has a reader. Tonight, they have an armed robbery and speak to the victim, an exclusive and some other interesting crap.

What does 16 have? A fire folo and Christmas merchandise. Are you f**king kidding me?

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'mon, Howard, can't I launch just one personal attack?

9:56 AM, you're a fool!

"NYT sunk a lot of money into them as if there was no tomorrow. Did WNEP's advertising draw even with all that money spent? Probably not. Not in this market."

Yeah, the Times has been operating 16 as a non-profit charity for years: sort of a rest home for reporters. Idiot.

The NYT has ALWAYS jealously guarded the bottom line. Over the years they've restructured and re-thought constantly to make sure they get value for money spent.

An example: ten years ago WNEP had FIVE on-air sportscasters. Too fat, dumb and complacent, and the department has been remade.

Yes, there's a reasonable fear that a new owner might try to milk the cash cow dry: but it's STILL a cash cow, and makes a ton of money.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Jefferson Eng said...

Hmmm...

I wonder if Disney would be willing to take it on and make it into an O&O. Although, being a small market in its own right might cause for some concern there.

I wonder if this bodes well for WQXR-FM...

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It won't happen, but...IF ONLY...

Under the Shelburne family, Elden Hale did more than anyone to make WNEP what it is today. He thought he had a commitment from the Shelburnes that if they ever wanted to sell he could follow their example and try to put together his own group of investors. He thought he had "right of first refusal" and felt gypped and jilted when Shelburne Jr. and Sr. sold to the Times. He kept his mouth shut, though, played the good soldier, and rose through the NYT ranks until leaving for Meredith. He's a senior GM for the group and runs WSMV-TV in Nashville.

That $100 million price tag is probably more than can be raised by asking local investors to ante up, but Elden Hale would be the perfect owner for WNEP. His vision made 16 what it is today.

(Oh, by the way, a lot of people hate his abrasive, blunt personality, and many are terrified of him. Too bad, so sad. You can't argue with his legacy. WNEP is the House that Hale Built.)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

jefferson eng said: I wonder if this bodes well for WQXR-FM...

For more on that, check the NY Radio Message Board, where there is a spirited discussion going on.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:37am...why so defensive ? Can't take the thought of 16 having a crack in thier levee ?

Clearly you contradicted yourself. Yes, NYT times has always guarded the bottom line. Which is EXACTLY why they're selling. If you can't see that then you should take your Home & Backyard blinders off and learn the business.

Idiot. Post again once you learn the biz.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

I wonder if Disney would be willing to take it on and make it into an O&O. Although, being a small market in its own right might cause for some concern there.

There are O&O stations in even smaller markets. For example, CBS owns WFRV in Green Bay, which is market 69. And until this summer, NBC had WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama, market 40.

With WNEP's dominance and seeming ability to print its own money, perhaps ABC will take a closer look?

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DISNEY, NBC?? COME ON PEOPLE... WHAT WOULD THEY WANT WITH A TV STATION IN THE COAL MINE TOWNS SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE PA.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CBS and NBC inherited the little stations when they bought companies that had stations in major markets. WNEP delivers a big audience to GMA and WN. It is likely ABC/Disney will take a look. A purchase would be a long shot.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, it's me, 9:37AM again.

You're right. I guess I offended your delicate sensibilities when I suggested that WNEP actually makes money. Take your socks off and follow me as we count up to $100 million. If that's the asking price (as has been rumored, as seems likely), I was just hinting that it must be because the station MAKES MONEY for the New York Times.

But go ahead. Tell me again how smart you are and what a money pit 16 is.

Heh-heh-heh.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it could be a stretch for an O&O to just buy up nep...
but if they see the growth happening in pike, wayne, and monroe counties -- mostly city folk (metro)... the dominant station would be a smart buy.
this area's become the suburbs of nyc metro...and the yankees deal only confirms that

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:01am...

I never called WNEP a "money pit" (your words, not mine). I merely pointed out the financial difficulties any Owner would face in this market, which does not have the economy of a typical 50-55 DMA size.

If you're so smart, why not enlighten us all and explain exactly why NYT is selling all thier stations ? Could it have something to do with that "bottom line" ? I doubt they're unloading just for a change in scenery.

Don't worry, you didn't offend me. I have tougher skin than most WNEP worshipers.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens. WNEP was known to basically being keeping the entire NYT broadcast group afloat -- so an "all or none" package might not be that appealing to a potential buyer. We might see WNEP get sold on its own or by another group looking to turn around the entire group (thereby keeping the DOC).

Anyone who bought WNEP and tried to make changes would be dumb, though. Why mess with it?

However, I think everyone should be prepared for the end of WNEP as we know it. It's certainly possible someone will come in and make drastic changes -- perhaps for the better, but most likely for the worse.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CBS owns WFRV in Green Bay for one reason and one reason alone. The Green Bay Packers - an NFL market with rights to Pre-Season games, Coaches show and so much cash the team can bring it, it's sick.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lot of people don't realize is that WNEP has been slowly losing its huge leads for a few years now. The Nielsens prove it.

Thousands of viewers are bailing in almost every time slot (my guess is this is partially attributed to competition on the local news level but also to the general trend of broadcast TV losing viewers).

Consider:

- The 7 p.m. show has been a disappointment ratings-wise.
- Why did you think Marisa's off the 11 now? Paola does better in the demos they want (not sure how Lewis fits in here, though).
- Again, the numbers keep shrinking.
- 16 has clearly started getting away from hiring "average joe" types. Many recent hires are definitely aimed at specific demos.
- Even though it gained a DMA, S/W-B still isn't a lucrative market population-wise, especially for the demos advertisers want.

So, in short, things aren't as golden as they once were on Montage Mountain Road. 16 can't bask in being "America's highest rated newscast" and all of the trends are leading to reduced ratings and advertising revenue in a market and industry that doesn't have much promise.

You can bet whoever buys NYT's stations will look at these numbers.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you're so smart, why not enlighten us all and explain exactly why NYT is selling all thier stations ? Could it have something to do with that "bottom line" ? I doubt they're unloading just for a change in scenery.

A little remedial broadcasting? Things they forgot to teach you at the vo-tech? Happy to help. Follow along as best you can. Maybe you can have an adult explain it to you.

These are tough times for the “Times.” Punch, Pinch, Poke—whoever runs the place—has seen the NYT stock price cut virtually in half in recent years. That’s because as big as they are, as smart as they are, they haven’t been able to work out the newspaper/Internet “synergy” ($5 word) that can take the paper forward into the rest of the 21st century. The company’s news release says the idea behind the sale is to “…sharpen our focus…”

Obviously, the Sulzbergers have more of an emotional investment in the paper than in anything else. A savvy business professional would tell them to jettison the paper first. All that prestige, all those awards won’t guarantee the paper’s future and they just don’t have the answer yet. No newspaper owner does.

SIDEBAR: back in the early seventies “Time-Life” owned its magazines and a strong string of TV stations. I don’t recall them all, but Denver, San Diego, Indianapolis and Grand Rapids were in the group.

Then Time-Life decided to fold what had become a huge money-loser, “Life” magazine, and OFFER EVERY SUBSCRIBER HIS/HER MONEY BACK or a free subscription to another T-L mag. The honchos were terrified that everyone would ask for $$$ and break the bank. They needed a ready reserve of cash, millions of dollars. So, in their wisdom (???) they sold off their TV group—most to McGraw-Hill, which has four stations to this day.

Know what happened next? Nothing. Almost every “Life” reader took a free subscription to another mag. And that, boys and girls, is what pushed a little publication called “Sports Illustrated” to the top—a skillion new subscribers. It also got Time-Life out of broadcasting.

That was, of course, a monumental miscalculation by T-L brass. In those days TV stations were gold mines. Without the competition in the marketplace we have today, TV stations in the 70s and 80s had to use bulldozers to shove the money to the bank. Time-Life screwed the pooch.

Things have changed and broadcasting ain’t what it once was. Selling the NYT stations isn’t the egregious (you can look it up) error it would have been not too many years ago.

But it’s still the Sulzberger/NYT hubris (another word for you to look up) that gives them a “cut off all the limbs to feed the head” mentality.

I don’t know what WFOR is worth, or WQAD, or WTKR. But WNEP is the gem of the NYT Broadcast Media Group. I don’t know how to say it more simply, and I don’t want to say it again—WNEP is worth a lot of money because it makes a LOT of money.

Here endeth the lesson.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WNEP staff, get those tapes and resumes in the mail ASAP

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:18pm...

"Anyone who bought WNEP and tried to make changes would be dumb, though. Why mess with it? "

True...any new Owner who would come in and make changes just for the sake of making changes would be a dumb move. After all, does WNEP really need a lot of improvement ? I agree with you, but...

In the end, the mighty dollar will have the final word. If NYT is unloading then that's very obvious. Right off the bat I could see diminished satellite and chopper time. If I were a Lewis or a Snedeker I would be concered about my $75K contracts, too.

Despite improvements I've seen from the competition, WNEP could probably get away with lesser talent and methods. At least for a while.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

”CBS owns WFRV in Green Bay for one reason and one reason alone. The Green Bay Packers - an NFL market with rights to Pre-Season games, Coaches show and so much cash the team can bring it, it's sick.”

Well…in a word…no. You’re mistaken. Urban legend.

At the time of the sale (1992) WFRV was owned by the family that owned WCCO-TV & AM in Minneapolis. The negotiations were for WCCO, but CBS was told it was a package deal—want Minneapolis, take Green Bay too.

CBS didn’t protest too much: WFRV was/is a fine station, and the price was right. But the Packers had nothing to do with it. After all, the rights for the ancillary shows are up for bid every two or three years: it’s not like they’re a fixed asset.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New owner comes in. Ships out most of the newsroom staff, keeping only an engineer or two on staff; just enuf to feed video news releases from corporate lobbyists into the gaping mouth of the public's airwaves; makes a gazillon bucks selling airtime to gullible business owners unaware that only a few wingnuts out in the sticks somewhere are actually watching; then turns around and sells the station to another absentee corporation; walking away with a 200 percent profit margin.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"New owner comes in. Ships out most of the newsroom staff, keeping only an engineer or two on staff; just enuf to feed video news releases from corporate lobbyists into the gaping mouth of the public's airwaves; makes a gazillon bucks selling airtime to gullible business owners unaware that only a few wingnuts out in the sticks somewhere are actually watching; then turns around and sells the station to another absentee corporation; walking away with a 200 percent profit margin."

The history of WBRE, writ large.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could we please stop with the silly comments: "If it ain't broke don't fix it"!! or "Making any changes would be dumb."
(they sound like desperate comments from WNEP staffers pleading to save their jobs)

THERE ARE PLENTY OF THINGS THAT NEED TO BE CHANGED/FIXED AT WNEP!!! That almighty attitude only matters when the numbers come out in Feb, July, May and November. The rest of the year you guys get creamed and play catch-up on stories just as much as the next guy. And some of WNEP's coverage leaves many scratching their heads.

A change or fixing means adapting to a NEW OWNERS news/sales/production philosohy...NOT YOURS!!

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a way for WNEP employees to squeeze a bit more money out of the NYT as they sail off into the sunset.

Start a call for a union.

16 staffers get paid way better than anyone else in the market because the NYT never wanted them to have an excuse to even think about a union.

With the station on the block the last thing a prospective new owner wants is a union battle.

Throw a scare into the NYT and rattle them into giving you a nice pay raise now to keep a union out. After all, those wonderful NYT benefits will be going bye-bye soon.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WNEP employees paid well? Ha. Maybe Lewis and Tom Clark but the production people make nothing.

6:40 PM  
Blogger D.B. Echo said...

I don't think anyone at WNEP should assume that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" will be the guiding principle of the new owners. It was suggested by a commenter that doing away with Vince Sweeney was just a simple business decision by the owners of WBRE: WBRE was so far behind WNEP in the ratings that there was no way to make a business case for holding onto an expensive sentimental favorite like Vince Sweeney who could not, even with all his popularity and charm, bring WBRE level with WNEP in the ratings; getting rid of him might hurt in the short term, but keeping him wouldn't help in the long term. The fact that WNEP is so far ahead of the competition in ratings may cause the new owners to conclude that they could make significant and substantial cuts without risking having WNEP fall out of first place. So the question is: what's expendable? Who's expendable?

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"WNEP...production people make nothing."

6:40 PM


Well, duh! You guys don't actually watch your station, do you? If you did you'd see that you look like crap on the air. I especially like the "waning crescent moon phase" look: you know, when half the anchor's face is in shadow.

You're probably making more than minimum wage, right? Why are you delivering minimum effort??

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and the winner of this week's Beale's Bites "Hit the Nail on the Head Award" goes to the 11:06PM comment with...

"I especially like the "waning crescent moon phase" look: you know, when half the anchor's face is in shadow."

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If I were a Lewis or a Snedeker I would be concered about my $75K contracts, too."

You must be kidding! When Nolan retired, he was earning more than $150K, and that was some time ago. Jack Ruland was making $65K in the mid-90's. Those two clowns have to be in the $150K+++ range. Stop and smell the green.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nolan was good for maybe 105K tops. Nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not 150K. New owners will slash and burn, if only because there is no reason to pay that kind of money in a market where the two other stations have lowered the bar so it is now scraping the dirt. If you make 75-100K at WNEP with your current contract, I'd bet serious money the new owners will shove a decrease under your nose the minute you're due. And it'll be, "...take it or leave it." They'll still rule, be #1, get all the big agency and local buys, and spend about a third(at least)what the NYT is paying to get the same results. A grim picture indeed, and you can thank Perry Sook for it all; Sook changed the dynamic of this market forever, regardless of what station you call home.

10:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home