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Petitti to top WCBS

Sports exec rises to G.M. of Gotham O&O

NEW YORK — CBS Sports exec Tony Petitti has been chosen to take over as veepee and general manager of Eye web flagship WCBS, the web is expected to announce today.

Petitti, who has been senior veepee of business affairs and programming for CBS Sports since joining the Eye in February 1997, was a key figure in the network’s successful bid last year to recapture National Football League broadcast rights. He’s been a senior adviser to Eye sports topper Sean McManus, and is well-respected within the company for his negotiating and packaging skills.

“He lives, eats and breathes television,” one Eye insider said of Petitti.

Recent candidate

Insiders said Petitti emerged as a serious candidate for the WCBS gig only within the last month. The position became available in late spring after former CBS Stations topper Jonathan Klein, who also served as G.M. of WCBS, announced his decision to step down.

Petitti will report to new Eye stations chief John Severino, who is expected officially to inform WCBS employees of the appointment in a staff meeting today. In addition, Petitti will maintain a connection to CBS Sports, serving as special adviser to McManus.

While most station toppers tend to come from news and sales backgrounds, sports divisions have produced many distinguished station and network execs. WNBC topper Dennis Swanson, for example, has a long sports resume, while former NBC West Coast chief Don Ohlmeyer was a noted sports producer before becoming a network suit.

WCBS reversal

Petitti joins WCBS at a crucial period in the station’s history. Once the laughingstock of Gotham, the station has made significant strides in the past two years under Klein and former veepee Steve Friedman, who’s now producing the new CBS ayemcast. At 5 p.m., for example, WCBS is often a competitive second in the three-way local news race.

But the station’s rebound will be tested next month once syndie smash “Judge Judy” migrates across town to WNBC, depriving WCBS of a solid 4 p.m. lead-in to its early news. King World’s new “Martin Short” talker will take over the slot, but there’s a good chance WCBS will take a Nielsen hit.

Before coming to CBS, Petitti briefly worked at NBC Sports as veepee of negotiations. He spent eight years in various exec positions at ABC Sports from 1988-96.

A CBS rep declined comment.

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