USA Broadcasting is expected to announce today plans for the debut of local sports and entertainment programming on its TV station in Atlanta in early November.
USA Broadcasting, an arm of Barry Diller’s USA Networks Inc., has tapped Atlanta market vet Andrew Beskin as general manager of the station, which will change its call letters to WHOT from WNGM. Beskin was most recently local sales manager for CBS affil WGNX Atlanta.
To build up the local profile of WHOT, which USA will promote as “Hotlanta,” the station has inked a multiyear deal for the local broadcast rights to Atlanta’s NBA franchise, the Atlanta Hawks. WHOT’s debut as commercial outlet will coincide with the start of the 1999-2000 NBA season.
“Hotlanta will be aggressive and energetic as the talented Hawks team it covers and Andy is the one who can pull the pieces together for this new station,” said Rick Feldman, chief operating officer of USA Broadcasting.
At present, the Atlanta station carries the 24-hour feed of USA Network’s Home Shopping Network, but USA has slowly been converting its station group from shopping channels to locally oriented commercial outlets.
Atlanta is the third of USA’s 13 markets to undergo the switch. USA’s station in Miami was converted last year, while its Dallas outlet also is set to unveil its new programming sked in November.
Local plan scaled back
USA’s original blueprint for reconfiguring its station group was focused on developing locally produced original programming. But the scope of the local production has been scaled back dramatically following a year of experimentation in the Miami market.
WHOT will fill out its sked with syndie fare and as many local sporting events as USA can acquire. There are also plans for major cross-promotion and collaborative programming initiatives between the station and USA’s CitySearch online service.