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USA B’casting gives Dallas a local angle

Mills appointed general manager

NEW YORK — Barry Diller’s plan to localize the 11 stations in his USA Broadcasting group continues to move forward, with Dallas station KHSX the next outlet skedded to be transformed.

Cornerstone programming for the revamped station will be NBA games featuring the Dallas Mavericks. Diller is close to finalizing a deal which will give his Dallas outlet exclusive local broadcasting rights to the team.

USA’s Miami flagship, WAMI, has scored its best ratings with broadcasts of games featuring the Miami Heat and Marlins.

Mills fills bill

USA confirmed plans to move forward with the localization process Monday by appointing Rick Mills general manager for the station, which will be revamped in November. Mills, who most recently was senior veep and general manager of UPN Dallas affil KTXA, will report to USA Broadcasting chief operating officer Rick Feldman.

While the hiring of Mills and the pending deal for Mavs games point to USA’s intent to continue converting its stations from Home Shopping Network affils to more traditional broadcasting outlets, there’s evidence the virtually all-local strategy attempted at WAMI will not be duplicated elsewhere.

Indeed, the CityVision title USA has used to identify its concept of localization was noticeably absent from Monday’s press release announcing the revamp of KHSX. And in an interview with Daily Variety, the recently-appointed Feldman confirmed that the new Dallas station will not be a carbon copy of WAMI.

Delicate balance

“It’ll vary from Miami in that we’re not going to try to do a station totally populated by local programming,” he said. “We’re looking to find a balance of programs we develop locally, programs we develop at the corporate level and syndicated programs.”

A local newscast, a staple at WAMI, is not in the works in Dallas. Other local programs are in the works, however, said Feldman, without discussing specifics.

One industry insider said USA execs likely concluded that an all-local format simply wasn’t economically realistic. “It’s too hard,” the observer said. “It’s impossible.”

Syndie programming slated for the station includes “Ricki Lake,” “Sister, Sister” and the BKN kidvid block. Regular movie blocks will also be worked into the program mix.

USA plans to transform another one of its 11 stations by the end of this year, with at least three or four more skedded to be overhauled in 2000.

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