Buffalo Is Not Over Oprah Yet

This month, Jeffrey Ulrich (see "The Biz," page 35) notes a trend toward putting local programming on-air at the traditionally syndication-heavy 4 p.m. time slot. But if the trend is local programming, then Buffalo is behind the times. Out of its four major network affiliates, only one, WKBW-TV (ABC), is launching local programming at 4 p.m.

At press time, WKBW was set to premiere its new show, WNY Live, this Labor Day. Bill Ransom, WKBW's GM, said the decision to go with local programming at 4 p.m. was mostly financial. "It's pure and simple,ä he said. "If you look at what I think is pertinent to the local television station, it is as much control of their inventory as possible. And in the past, the paradigm was to rely on syndicated product. Which is not bad. The problem is, the success rate of syndicated product in the past couple of years has not been that good. And if you're on the short end of that stick, and selected one of the shows that aren't successful, it's just a lot of wasted money...if you're going to take chances, I'd rather take the chance of trying to expand my news product, and do it that way." (WNY Live is a magazine show with news elements.)

As for the other major network affiliates in Buffalo, it doesn't appear the end of Oprah and the gang is nigh. WGRZ-TV broadcasts syndicated talk show Montel Williams at 4 p.m. WUTV-TV, the Fox affiliate, (which has no news programming at all) airs People's Court. WIVB-TV (CBS) airs Oprah. Chris Musial, news director at WIVB, said his station has no plans to implement local programming at 4 p.m. "Not at 4 p.m.," he said. ãWe have expanded to three hours [of news] in the morning. We do a ten oâclock news for another station that we own in the market. But with Oprah at 4--that's not something that were going to move.ä

So, is it too early to herald the arrival of local programming at 4? Maybe not. But syndicated programming is still a powerful force in Buffalo. And that can make even the most loyal hometown station turn away from generating most of its own material.