Just to echo my earlier post, this was in J. Freedom DuLac's Media Savvy section in today's Bee:
In the curious calculus of the television business, one local station's upper-management change can send people reeling inside two different broadcast buildings.
Consider the reaction to the news last week that a former CNBC suit, Bruno Cohen, was replacing Tom Tucker as vice president and general manager at Sacramento's UPN-31 (KMAX).
The announcement put the folks at KMAX on edge - where they're likely to remain beyond Cohen's June 17 start date.
"We're all anxious," a station source says. "Nobody knows what's going to happen."
Apparently, that's also the case at Channel 13 (KOVR), where the KMAX management change has given new life to two old rumors:
That media giant Viacom might move its CBS affiliation in Sacramento to KMAX, which is currently a UPN affiliate, and that Viacom is also trying to acquire KOVR outright. (Viacom owns the UPN and CBS networks, along with 39 TV stations - including KMAX.)
"You wouldn't believe how nervous everybody is," says one KOVR insider. "People are crazed."
Another station source says the Viacom chatter dominates discussion. "People here are all freaked out," the source says.
But if Cohen's installment in the executive suite at KMAX is a sign of significant change to come in Sacramento, the Viacom suits aren't saying. At least not publicly.
Privately, a company source indicates that "there's nothing too hot and heavy right now" on either the affiliation or ownership front.
Yet, when asked in a phone interview to address the persistent Sacramento rumors, Dennis Swanson - the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Viacom's Television Stations Group division - says only this:
"Those are hypothetical questions, and a long time ago, I made myself a promise not to answer hypothetical questions. Obviously, the rumor mill is at work. But what we're focused on right now is KMAX - which we own, which is a UPN station and where an experienced manager, Bruno Cohen, is coming in.
"We think there is the potential to grow the station, and we think there's a potential for greater involvement out of that station vis-a-vis our other stations in California. That's really where our focus is."
Besides KMAX, Viacom has four other California stations - two each in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it owns and operates the CBS and UPN affiliates.
The company currently has eight such "duopolies" across the country, and it's widely known that Viacom previously tried for a ninth, talking with KOVR's corporate owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, about selling or trading its Sacramento property.
Negotiations are said to have stalled over Sinclair's asking price, said to be in the $400 million to $450 million range. (Sinclair spokesman Mark Hyman was unavailable for comment.)
Even if nothing happens on the ownership front - an issue that's complicated by federal regulations that would prohibit Viacom from taking on KOVR without trimming its station roster elsewhere - it's still possible change could come at KOVR.
The station's affiliation deal with CBS is set to expire early next year. There's speculation it may not be renewed by CBS parent Viacom, which could then move CBS to KMAX.
As the rumor mill grinds on, KMAX staggers forward and awaits the arrival of its new boss.
Though Swanson says change at the top was made because KMAX "had plateaued," he does not foresee a staffing shakeup.
"I think we just need to take what's there and grow beyond that," Swanson says. "That's really what the charge to Bruno is. He'll go in there and he'll make those evaluations on the people who work for him. But I wouldn't think that there's any need for wholesale change in the station."
That's also true of the station's local news programming: the infotainment-style shows "Good Day Sacramento" and "Good Evening Sacramento."
No traditional news, Swanson says. And no chance that the end is near for "Good Evening Sacramento," which has struggled to find its identity - and audience - since its launch last summer.
"It's an experiment that's worth continuing and working with," Swanson says. "I think it will be a challenge for Bruno to work with the folks there and see if we can't move the show to a higher level. But that we're doing a live evening hour in Sacramento is a good thing."
Not so good, though, are the frayed nerves at KMAX. Not that Swanson is surprised.
"When change occurs, there's always some uncertainty and discombobulation," he says. "Hopefully, everybody will calm down and do their jobs. If they do a good job, they won't have anything to worry about."
It looks like CBS HDTV over Comcast may be coming to Sacramento soon...