NBCU upgrades news coverage, increases hiring at its 'Owned' TV stations

Don't use the term "O&Os" anymore to describe NBC television stations. NBCUniversal has renamed its station group the NBC Owned Television Stations, changing it from the earlier moniker of NBC Local Media. It's also upgrading news coverage and hiring about 130 new employees across its 10 stations.

"This new name serves as a reminder to all of us that this division is first and foremost defined by 10 great television stations serving 10 very dynamic and diverse communities," wrote Valari Staab, the group's new president, in a memo sent to station employees.

Staab explained to the employees why the old "owned and operated" lingo has been dropped. "While the stations are owned by NBC, they are operated by the local management team of each station," the memo said. "Our markets are separate and distinct, and the people running the stations are in the best position to serve the needs of their communities each and every day."

Staab, formerly general manager at KGO in San Francisco, an ABC O&O, replaces John Wallace, who had earlier named the group NBC Local Media. That was a reference to the expanding role of the Internet in the station's audience. Wallace is now president of NBCUniversal Media Works and will be in charge of the company's technology and studio operations.

However, Staab said that emphasis on digital media established by Wallace is not being downplayed. "We are committed to continuing our focus on distributing the content we produce across multiple platforms to connect with our audience wherever they want us, whenever they want us and however they want us. We are engaging viewers in more ways than ever before and that is exciting."

NBCU's new owner, Comcast, is making a "major investment" to ensure that its stations have "the resources necessary to effectively compete in their markets," Staab added. "The new leaders of the company very much believe in the owned television stations division and they want to see these stations strong again. So we're moving as fast as we can to strengthen all of their news gathering and reporting capabilities."

Hiring is being increased to 130 personnel throughout the group and improvements are planned in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., Miami, San Diego and Connecticut. NBCU also plans new consumer and/or investigative units in D.C., the Bay Area, Connecticut, New York and Chicago.

In March 2008, before Comcast took over from previous owner, General Electric, NBCU said it intended to sell its owned-and-operated stations in the Hartford and Miami markets. The two stations were never sold and appear now to be off the market.