Diller station continuing retreat from in-house fare

MIAMI — Barry Diller’s local programming experiment WAMI is continuing its retreat from in-house fare, but execs insist the shift is temporary.

The Miami-based UHFer introduced a daily 8 p.m. movie Monday, killed its controversial shock-jock show “Neil at Night” and shifted other local fare to weekends.

Launched in June with a primetime slate bursting with original fare, WAMI has gradually cut weekday local content between 5:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. from 5-1/2 hours to three.

But station manager Chuck Budt said that, following WAMI’s recent acquisition of six-year rights to baseball’s Florida Marlins (Daily Variety, 17 Dec.), the station remains as committed to local programming as ever.

“Now we have the Marlins, we need to work to establish new viewing patterns,” Budt said, adding that carriage of the team’s games begins April 5.

Counting games from the still-suspended NBA, where WAMI has five-year rights to the Miami Heat, Budt said that the station will typically have 90 games per year showing in primetime, plus extensive pre- and post-game coverage.

“With that amount of disruption to the regular schedule, it would be hard to open a new series that could develop a lot of traction,” Budt said.

Budt added that the station has more original fare in development and recently added an all-original kids’ half-hour, “WAMI 3-0,” during its afternoon kiddie block.

“Neil at Night,” a nightly half-hour video sampler from a radio show by shock-jock Neil Rogers, was once touted as one of the jewels in WAMI’s slate.

But ratings drooped to an average 0.2 and Rogers’ on-air lambasting of WAMI topper Matti Leshem became more frequent by the month.

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