Nesbitt to head KABC

G. Alan Nesbitt, a 26-year Capital Cities/ABC vet who most recently headed O&O WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, has been named president and general manager of KABC-TV.

The appointment had been anticipated (Daily Variety, Nov. 3) because of his close working relationship with ABC O&O prez Larry Pollock, who is also based in Philadelphia. The KABC post has been vacant since September, when former general manager Terry Crofoot ankled.

The shift of Nesbitt to L.A. in the midst of the November sweeps will likely cause a domino effect as top station execs are shuffled among the group’s O&Os.

Pollock, who was at KABC Thursday to introduce Nesbitt to the staff, said several company insiders and two outside candidates who initially applied for the KABC post are under consideration for the WPVI general manager job. He expects to fill the vacant post in Philly — the nation’s fourth-ranked market — within two weeks.

Industry sources say one of the leading candidates for the job is Tim Bennett , G.M. of ABC-owned WTVD in Raleigh/Durham, N.C. Bennett is reportedly being groomed for greener pastures.

Nesbitt had been G.M. of WTVD from March 1986 — after the merger of CapCities and ABC — until January 1990, when he was promoted to WPVI.

Like Crofoot, who last week was named VP of news for the Fox Television Stations, Nesbitt comes from the news area.

He began his career in 1960 as a news writer in Canada, joined CapCities in 1967 as an assignment editor and reporter in Buffalo, N.Y., then worked his way up through the ranks. He served as news director at WPVI from 1976-86, and became veepee of CapCities Communications’broadcasting wing in 1983.

At WPVI, where Pollock was general manager for many years, Nesbitt oversaw newscasts that pulled numbers that are unheard of elsewhere. The 6 p.m. news there routinely pulls 20 ratings, compared to 6 and 8 ratings for the competition.

The “Action News” format on the Philadelphia station is known for its high story count, but Nesbitt said the programs have evolved over the years from a rapid-fire succession of 12-second stories. He noted the station has done its share of in-depth reports.

Because of WPVI’s success, there has been speculation the L.A. station would shift from its current “Eyewitness News” format to the “Action News” style under the new G.M.

KABC has been the overall market news leader over the past several sweeps books, but now has KNBC-TV breathing down its neck once again, the latter overtaking the O&O in late news during the May book because of a strong primetime lead-in.

Nesbitt, however, said he has “no pre-conceived notions about what I want do here.”

His goal is to get to know the market, possibly the most competitive in the country. No other market has five competing early morning newscasts, or sends 10 helicopters to cover a breaking story such as the wildfires that recently ravaged the Southland.

Pollock also pointed to another key competitive difference: L.A. has four powerful VHF independent stations that dilute the audience.

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