WAMI’s whammy

Beefs up original fare with hopes of export

USA Broadcasting’s upstart TV station WAMI Miami is calling in the 4077th to better showcase the station’s original programming.

WAMI has acquired rights to the evergreen sitcom “MASH” to serve as evening and latenight bookends for WAMI’s offbeat nightly newscast, “The Times,” and its midnight gabfest “Kenneth’s Freakquency.”

Other recent programming acquisitions include the Southeastern Conference college football package for weekends.

Eyes exports

The move is a sign that USA is committed to shoring up the original programming on WAMI in the hopes of exporting those concepts and formats to other major-market USA outlets, including L.A. and Gotham.

After 12 weeks on the air with the new format, honchos at Barry Diller’s USA Networks say they’re encouraged by the ratings WAMI generated during the July sweep and by the creative growth of the station’s Miami-oriented original productions.

In fact, Studios USA, the syndie distribution wing of USA Networks, is looking into the national syndie prospects for a number of WAMI’s originals.

WAMI spent $250,000 on a promo blitz last month to help establish the station, formerly a Home Shopping Network affiliate, as an outlet for news and entertainment with an accent on local color.

The station’s ratings performance to date has been consistent with the first fledgling months of startup stations aligned with weblets UPN and the WB in Miami and other major markets.

Secures beachhead

In short, WAMI has established a beachhead and now looks to move inland, said USA exec VP Adam Ware.

“Overall, 52% of the market sampled us at least once a week, which is the same as when UPN and WB launched in this market — with known programming,” Ware said.

The engine behind WAMI’s progress to date has been its afternoon kids block, which blends Fox Kids cartoons with live bits from in-studio hosts. “WAMI on Miami” averaged a 1.0 rating and 3 share during the sweep and occasionally beat out WB affil WBZL with as much as a 2.6 rating.

In the evenings, “The Times” newscast has made an impact in the Miami area with its investigative reporting. Also faring well is WAMI’s weekday 8 p.m. slot — including originals such as fashion-conscious “Ocean Drive,” Latino newsmag “Generation n” and tongue-in-cheek beauty contest “10s,” which delivered an average 1.0 rating among young women.

Ware added that WAMI’s list of advertisers is growing at a fast clip, with big spenders like Burger King, Dodge and New Balance signing on. At the same time, the station has stayed within its modest production budgets for its original programs.

Midnight counterculture gabfest “Kenneth’s Freakquency” costs just $4,000 per half-hour episode, said WAMI editor-in-chief Matti Leshem, yet the show managed to scoop the rest of the local competition and land an exclusive interview with Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff to promote the local preem of New Line’s “Blade.”

WAMI is expecting to generate considerably more traffic, particularly among the advertiser-coveted young male demo, when basketball season begins in November. WAMI has the local TV rights to the NBA’s Miami Heat.

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