Alan Pergament: ‘Modern Family’ will contribute to success story of WNYO - The Buffalo News

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Alan Pergament: ‘Modern Family’ will contribute to success story of WNYO

I’m a graduate of the Larry David School of Annoyances. I get easily annoyed. And one of the more annoying aspects of the Prime Time on Demand cable feature over the years has been the inability to catch episodes of ABC’s “Modern Family.”

If I forget to DVR it, I usually miss it.

But missing old episodes of the hilarious Dunphys and Pritchetts no longer will be a problem.

One of the local Sinclair Broadcasting stations is carrying syndicated reruns of the first four seasons of the Emmy-award winning series at 6:30 and 7:30 nightly, as well as at 7 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

It will be carried on WNYO-TV only, the weaker of the two Sinclair stations, for a very good reason.

“It was the syndicators’ choice,” explained Nick Magnini, the general manager of WNYO and of WUTV, the local Fox affiliate owned by Sinclair. “They didn’t want it to run in Canada (via WUTV). They sold it to a Toronto station. WNYO is only available in fringe areas of Canada.”

Ah, Canada. It is generally a big plus for WUTV, the local Fox affiliate, enabling Sinclair to afford and carry most of the prize syndication programs of network reruns. However, Canadian revenue has been decreasing in recent years.

“Canada is not as big as it used to be,” conceded Magnini, the stations’ GM for the last eight years. “But it is still an attractive piece of business.”

Canadians may appreciate the Sinclair stations more than Western New Yorkers, who give them little thought or attention unless “American Idol” on Fox is hot again.

Come to think of it, the stations even were ignored in my Rip Van Winkle tour of local stations after I returned to The News six months ago.

They’ve gotten my attention now because of “Modern Family,” which joins “The Middle,” “Two and Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” “How I Met Your Mother” and other popular comedy series that have made it into syndication on one or both Sinclair stations.

“We buy all the good programs,” said Magnini. He added that Sinclair, which has 149 stations in 76 markets after pending acquisitions, already has purchased the popular CBS sitcoms “Mike and Molly” and “2 Broke Girls” to air here when they will be ready for syndication.

“Everything in the business is programming. It is no longer channel position or whether it is a UHF or VHF,” said Magnini.

He has a special place in his heart and his station’s pocketbook for “Modern Family.”

“It is just excellent TV,” said Magnini. “It is like the old days of ‘Cheers’ and ‘The Cosby Show.’ It is my favorite show.”

Magnini won’t talk about money issues, but other sources believe that WUTV still gets about 25 percent of its advertising revenue from north of the border.

And it may surprise Western New Yorkers, but local television insiders believe that the Sinclair stations may be the most profitable in the market, or at least very close to being No. 1. That’s partly due to the fact that it doesn’t have a news department and the costs associated with having one.

Magnini’s two stations have a total of 52 employees, which is about half – or even lower than that – of what the local network affiliates that do news have. The Big Three’s larger staff is primarily because of the size of their news teams.

Of course, local news also is believed to account for 35 to 45 percent of the income of the news stations, too, making the cost worth it to them. And they have found ways to expand news content by filling more and more time with newscasts that often just repeat information.

WNYO briefly tried local news, but it quickly bailed out after the cost exceeded the rewards.

“It is too expensive,” said Magnini. “This market would not support four standalone news stations.”

Instead, he has partnered with Channel 2 to air a 10 p.m. newscast, first on WNYO and now on the stronger WUTV. The channel switch was expected to be a game-changer at 10, but Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on WNLO still dominates Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast in household ratings.

“It’s much improved on WUTV,” said Magnini of the newscast’s ratings. “I thought it would be even stronger. It takes a while to change viewers. It is still the best-looking newscast in the market.”

Still, he is happy with the arrangement worked out with Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner.

“It is a win-win,” said Magnini. “Jim gets cash from me and more exposure. I get a top-rated newscast.”

While it is far from top-rated at 10, Channel 2’s newscast is doing much better than it did on WNYO, a station affiliated with MyNetworkTV after The WB folded into the CW.

The MyNetworkTV prime-time lineup on WNYO consists of formerly popular dramas, including “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Bones,” “House” and “Monk” and often beats the CW original prime-time programming on WNLO-TV for fourth or fifth place nightly in the market. “It’s good counterprogramming,” said Magnini.

Both stations carry a large lineup of talk shows during the afternoon, including low-brow shows headlined by Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.

Of course, the most popular programs carried by Sinclair are the two Buffalo Bills games with visiting National Football Conference teams that Fox affiliate WUTV can carry each season if they are sold-out 72 hours in advance.

How the Bills do this Sunday in the season opener against New England could affect whether WUTV gets to carry the Sept. 15 home game with the Carolina Panthers.

“It will be sold out,” said Magnini. “It better be sold out. I have a lot of (advertising) money on it.”

A Bills game also would be one of the few times a Sinclair station gets much attention.

“Because we don’t have local news, we don’t get written about,” said Magnini. “All we do is put on quality TV and fly under the radar. We’re just not talked about.”

He didn’t sound as annoyed as Larry David, perhaps because the acquisition of “Modern Family” just might change that.


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