Monday, October 11, 1999

Channel 12 sticks with winner




BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati will be seeing a lot less of Bryant Gumbel next month than the rest of the nation.

        WKRC-TV has told CBS that it will stick with its mostly local news format 7-8 a.m., instead of taking all of Mr. Gumbel's The Early Show. It debuts Nov. 2.

        Why? Because Channel 12 often wins at 7 a.m., beating NBC's Today show (No. 1 nationally), ABC's Good Morning America (No. 2 nationally) and WXIX-TV's 19 in the Morning.

        “The numbers are too good to give up,” says Bill Moll, Channel 12 general manager. “Consistently this year, we've always been first or second, but never lower than second.”

        CBS, which always has been third in morning news, encouraged affiliates to adopt this hybrid “wheel” format in 1996. CBS gave local stations 40 minutes at 7 a.m., instead of the traditional 50-10 split (for two five-minute newscasts).

        Now that CBS has spent millions on The Early Show, and a new streetside studio in the General Motors Building, the network began squeezing stations to give back the time. Not all have.

        “They came with a very persuasive argument on strength of logic,” Mr. Moll says.

        “But I told them: "Why should I give up a program that's beating the Today show? And what would be a better way to introduce Bryant into this market than with a show that's already beating the Today show?'”

        What he didn't say was: What would be a worse way to introduce Mr. Gumbel than by alienating loyal Channel 12 viewers who love starting their day with John Lomax, Cammy Dierking, Steve Horstmeyer and Chris Balish?

        CBS won't say how long stations will be given the 40-20 option. TV critics were told in July that the response to reclaiming the first hour was “very encouraging,” said CBS News President Andrew Heyward. “I think we'll be in good shape, and I think we'll continue to get in better shape after the program goes on the air.”

        Mark McEwen will be the only holdover from CBS This Morning. Joining the show are co-anchor June Clayson and contributors Martha Quinn (MTV), Laurie Hibberd (Good Morning America, Fox's After Breakfast) and Lisa Birnbach (The Preppy Handbook).

        “This is by far the biggest investment that CBS has ever made in this time period,” Mr. Heyward said. “This time we're going to get it right, and this time we're going to make a difference in the morning.”

        ENQUIRERING MIND: Enquirering mind wants to know: What happened to Channel 12 news anchor Kit Andrews?

        Ms. Andrews is taking maternity leave through late November after adopting Gus, a 16-month-old boy from Romania in September.

        “She's bonding with an infant from Romania, and that's important for moms to do. Her first priority should be her family,” Mr. Moll says.

        Ms. Andrews and her husband, Mike, also have a son, 10, and a daughter, 4.

        Viewers should expect her back “at the end of November,” Mr. Moll says. The November sweeps — used to set advertising rates until spring — run from Nov. 4 to Dec. 1.

        Channel 12, which has been winning the 11 p.m. news ratings since June, has not lost viewers since Ms. Dierking began subbing with Rob Braun.

        DAYTON MUSIC MAN: Channel 12 won't carry the whole show, but it will air The Early Show theme composed by Chris Bowman of Dayton, Ohio.

        Mr. Gumbel picked the 39-year-old guitarist after listening to an unsolicited compact disc he received in June from Mr. Bowman, who had just quit his day job to devote more time to music.

        “Out of the hundreds of videotapes, audio tapes and CDs that were sent to me, Chris Bowman's work clearly stood out and compared favorably with the best efforts of established professionals,” said Mr. Gumbel in a CBS statement.

        ANOTHER GONER: For the third time in three years, Fox has canceled a new fall season show before its debut broadcast.

        This year's casualty: Manchester Prep, an adaption of Cruel Intentions, the movie about kids in an elite Manhattan prep school, with Sean Patrick Thomas (Cruel Intentions), Amy Adams (Drop Dead Gorgeous), Sarah Thompson (The Sopranos) and Robin Dunne.

        Fox had delayed the premiere until late November or early December to boost ratings for Family Guy and Action (9-10 p.m. Thursday). That strategy has backfired, with both Fox sitcoms a distant fifth behind NBC, CBS, ABC and UPN's wrestling.

        Fox pulled the plug last year on Hollyweird, a drama from Shaun Cassidy (American Gothic, Roar) and Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), and in 1997 on Rewind, a sitcom with Scott Baio (Charles in Charge) and Dayton comic Mystro Clark.

        AROUND THE DIAL: Transplant, a one-hour documentary (9 p.m., Discovery Channel), features a 1998 larynx transplant at the Cleveland Clinic donated by a Cincinnati man identified only as “Matt.” He was a musician in his 30s, says Mark Sommerville from LifeCenter, the Tristate's organ donation support group.

       



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