Eye woos Martin for anchor slot

CBS Broadcast Group prexy Howard Stringer is among those courting KABC-TV anchor Ann Martin to make the move to KCBS-TV, sources say.

Stringer’s rare involvement at the local anchor level may indicate that CBS is throwing a network stick to Martin to entice her to KCBS, which is languishing inthird place. The poor performance of its 11 p.m. news has been harming “Late Show With David Letterman” in the nation’s second-largest TV market.

The Eye web O&O is apparently willing to dole out a maximum of $ 1.2 million annually to capture Martin, whose current $ 700,000-per-year KABC contract expires in April. At least one source suggested the figure could go higher once network incentives are thrown into the package.

Martin’s former KABC co-anchor Paul Moyer, who received a six-year deal from KNBC estimated to be worth nearly $ 9 million, is also said to be pushing for Martin to come to KNBC. But sources suggest that she may have reservations about leaving KABC.

Nonetheless, Martin’s agent, attorney Ed Hookstratten, is said to be pushing for her to consider other offers. Hookstratten had difficulty with KABC during the protracted negotiations that led to Moyer’s market-record-breaking deal with KNBC.

KCBS general manager Bill Applegate declined to comment, but sources say he and Stringer have met with Martin and Hookstratten (news director Bob Jordan apparently did not attend the dinner meeting).

But Applegate did confirm that anchor Chris Conangla, who has anchored the noon and 5 p.m. news for the station, will depart in March. Conangla has been working on a month-to-month basis for about half a year.

Meanwhile, KABC has given 6 p.m. anchor Paul Dandridge an ultimatum: Either sign a six-month contract extension by Monday or walk.

Sources say Dandridge, a 12-year station vet who has been anchoring the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts for the past 18 months, is among the lowest-paid anchors in the market with a salary in the $ 250,000-per-year range. The extension apparently contains no raise.

Dandridge is said to be in discussions with other stations since he was given the mandate three weeks ago, but it couldn’t be determined if the other stations are offering him an anchor job.

If Dandridge should leave, Steve Wolford, who anchors the station’s 4 p.m. news, is expected to add the 6 p.m. newscast to his duties.

Recently appointed KABC general manager Alan Nesbitt said the company does not comment on personnel matters. Neither Dandridge nor Hookstratten, who also serves as his agent, could be reached.

Dandridge, whose 6 p.m. newscast is the highest-rated in the market (running neck-in-neck with KABC’s 5 p.m. news during the February sweeps), is the first anchor whose contract has come up for renewal since Nesbitt arrived at KABC late last year.

Several reporters at the station were also said to have been given similar ultimatums.

Nesbitt says that it “wouldn’t be wrong to assume that a new general manager is evaluating a number of things at the station, personnel or otherwise. There is nothing unusual about that.”

Nesbitt, who previously ran ABC O&O WPVI in Philadelphia, has been pushing for more community-oriented stories at KABC. He says there has been no “radical change,” but staffers say they have noticed subtle changes — including a higher story count, less live shots on the late news and different openings, which is more in line with WPVI’s “Action News” style.

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