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After less than a year on the job, David Woodcock has ankled the top spot at Viacom-owned KCBS Los Angeles.

Move comes just as Viacom is about to close its deal to purchase Young Broadcasting’s independent Los Angeles outlet, KCAL-TV. Viacom stations head Fred Reynolds issued a memo Tuesday to KCBS and KCAL employees announcing Woodcock’s exit and saying KCAL president-general manager Don Corsini will take on Woodcock’s duties.

“It is no easy feat operating an independent station in a market dominated by network O&Os. Yet Don’s successful guidance of KCAL over the last six years says a lot about what a talented broadcasting executive he is,” Reynolds’ memo said.

Viacom sources said with the KCAL buy expected to be completed within days (the Federal Communications Commission granted approval last week), it was necessary to choose between Corsini and Woodcock as head of the two stations. Ultimately, Corsini won.

On the upswing

It’s tough to pin down the exact reasons one was chosen over the other. But with no help from network lead-in programming, KCAL’s newcasts have nevertheless gained ground recently under news director Nancy Bauer Gonzales. Some say Corsini’s working style gelled better with Viacom execs.

Some station insiders said Woodcock was looking to leave KCBS in recent months for reasons unrelated to the KCAL buy. They said Woodcock’s goals for KCBS conflicted with those of senior Viacom executives, including WCBS news director Joel Cheatwood, who also serves as the station group’s news chief.

Word is Woodcock’s hands were tied in the last few months, with Viacom shifting its focus from ramping up the perennially ratings-challenged KCBS to the coming task of combining KCAL and KCBS operations.

Woodcock admitted, “I was spending an enormous amount of hours (with KCBS), and it only became more so with the combination of KCBS and KCAL.”

More family time

Still, he said a big motivating factor in choosing to resign was the desire to spend more time with his family, including his 5-month-old son.

“I wanted more balance in my life,” he said, adding he hopes to return to the TV biz after a two-month vacation in France this summer.

Corsini had no comment Tuesday.

Both Corsini and Woodcock are longtime L.A. station veterans.

Prior to his six years with KCAL, Corsini led programming activities at KABC. Woodcock — who replaced John Severino as KCBS’ prexy-general manager in August 2001 — was seen as a potential savior for the Eye O&O. Its local newscasts consistently rank below those of its L.A. rivals.

While KCBS still trailed with Woodcock at the helm, Woodcock pointed out that the station’s newscasts enjoyed month-to-month ratings bumps September through January. NBC’s Olympics coverage skewed February’s sweeps results.

One competing L.A. general manager said KCBS’ newscasts “felt a little better” under Woodcock’s leadership these last eight months, adding, “He knows the market well.”

Revamps under Woodcock include last December’s hiring of Princell Hair from Baltimore to take over the news reins from the now-departed Roger Bell. He also let go flamboyant consumer correspondent Bogey Boguslawski and got rid of KCBS’ past “Station of the People” slogan.

“Once we got out of the theatrics, our numbers started soaring,” Woodcock said.

Before KCBS, Woodcock spent several years as prexy-G.M. of UPN affiliate KCOP, which also became part of a duopoly situation last summer after News Corp. bought the former Chris Craft station. KTTV general manager Dave Boylan now runs both KTTV and KCOP.