Wach takes reins at ailing WNYW

New boss brings broad experience

NEW YORK — A true New Yorker has been hired to help heal the ailing WNYW-TV. Part entrepreneur, part salesman, part manager, Michael Wach is “what the station had been hoping for,” according to a senior level source at the station.

He was appointed Friday by Mitchell Stern, prexy of the Fox TV station group, replacing G.M. Hillary Hendler, who ankled at the end of last month.

Wach had been a managing partner of BGI Broadcasting and Alpha Broadcasting, a radio and TV station group with stations in West Palm Beach, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

But he’s also got plenty of the requisite Gotham time served. Wach was G.M. of Long Island indie station WLNY from August 1993 to October 1995 and had been general sales manager at Tribune Co.’s then-indie WPIX from 1990 to 1993.

WNYW does need a hero, with daytime ratings barely cracking a 2 rating and news ratings soft. Wach says he’s readying plans for a locally programmed daytime show.

“It’s in development stages,” said Wach, adding, “There’s a niche market in daytime that hasn’t been filled.”

WNYW, which just eked out a win with its 10 o’clock news this February, is neck and neck with Tribune’s WPIX at 10 o’clock — a franchise it used to own without any visible challenge.

“We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said one WNYW source, “and waiting to see who our new news director is.”

Wach, for his part, maintains that while change will be coming to WNYW, that doesn’t mean a bloodbath of firings is around the corner:

“Change is good; I don’t necessarily means bodies. I mean the way that we’re doing things here,” said Wach.

Wach confirmed that “a series of flow studies has been commissioned, like at all good stations” to see “where our news audience is.”

While the near term might be rocky for WNYW, the station is sitting pretty for the millennial future: Earlier this week, it scored a major coup in acquiring the second cycle rights to the megahit “Seinfeld” beginning in spring of 2001. It has also acquired “The Drew Carey Show” and “3rd Rock From the Sun” for access starting in 1999.

Wach points to the network’s secured rights to the Super Bowl and the World Series, as well as the Fox O&O group’s clearing “The Magic Hour,” as momentum builders for the station.

“In the meantime, it gives us the opportunity to make sure daytime, news and primetime are as strong as they can be,” said Wach.

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