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Diller’s paper trail

Silver King seals CityVision/Herald partnership

HSN’s Silver King Broadcasting unit offered the first real glimpse Monday of Barry Diller’s vision for “CityVision,” the ambitious local programming venture set to roll on Silver King’s station in Miami next spring.

Under the aegis of the CityVision concept, Silver King execs unveiled a news programming partnership with Knight-Ridder Co.’s Miami Herald newspaper and a plan to build a live children’s variety show around hit kidvid fare from the Fox Kids Net-work. Silver King’s move on the kidvid front is good news for Fox Kids, which has been off the air in Miami since September.

Silver King’s WYHS-TV Miami and the Herald have teamed to produce a pilot for a weekly series tentatively titled “City Desk.” The goal is to give viewers a newsroom-side seat to the newsgathering process, blending coverage of breaking news events with video verite scenes of how the stories were tackled by Herald staffers.

“This deal is going beyond logo-swapping,” said Doug Binzak, execu-tive VP of Silver King Broadcasting, referring to traditional tie-in deals between local TV stations and news-papers.

“We want to give viewers an inside look at the process (of newsgather-ing),” he said. “There’s an artificial wall between the media and the con-sumer. They’re never really allowed to peek behind the curtain.”

Peeking behind the curtain of the TV production process is a tenant of what Silver King hopes to do with many of its original, locally based productions. WYHS currently carries Home Shopping Network program-ming, but HSN aims to replace elec-tronic retailing with 10 to 12 hours of locally oriented news and entertain-ment fare per day by the second quarter of 1998.

If it works in Miami, the CityVision concept could be rolled out on Silver King’s 10 other UHF outlets in such major markets as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas. HSN’s long-term goal is to cross-promote the Silver King/CityVision outlets with the USA Network cabler, which HSN acquired along with the bulk of Uni-versal Studios’ TV operation in a complex stock swap deal last month.

Silver King’s planned children’s variety show will be beamed out in front a live audience from the station’s new storefront TV studio in Miami’s trendy South Beach district.

Silver King execs are banking that the children’s show will be a magnet for introducing kids and their parents to the new program offerings on WYHS. Silver King has tapped producer Malcolm Bird, who was involved with the launch of Nickelodeon U.K. and other international kidvid shows, to develop and exec produce the kids show.

Adam Ware, executive VP of Sil-ver King, said the live, local elements and an endearing host will set Silver King’s 2-5 p.m. kidvid block apart from the pack. Silver King plans to host high-profile, kid-friendly events in and around the station to build overall awareness of the station’s new format.

“The first audience that shows up to any sign-on (station) is kids, because their viewing isn’t driven by channel numbers, but by their favorite shows,” Ware said. “With Fox Kids (cartoons) we’ll get a lot of kids tuning in and we think they’ll be intrigued by the local connection and they’ll want to come down to see the only kid show that originates in their own back yard.”

The relaunch of WYHS Miami comes at an opportune time for Fox Kids Network. Fox Kids was carried by Miami’s WB Network affiliate WDZL until September, when the station dropped Fox Kids to make room for the expanded Kids’ WB! weekday kidvid lineup. Like other key Fox affils, Fox’s primary Miami affiliate, WSVN, never carried the Fox Kids afternoon block because it had strong local news programs in those timeslots, having been an NBC affil until 1994.

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