Seattle TV: In Transition

A swirl of change in Seattle television is under way this week with new ownership in place at two stations and word that KIRO-TV (UPN) is seeking a home for its 10 p.m. news - on another channel.

KIRO's news at 10 will be displaced by entertainment programming when the station regains CBS affiliation, probably on June 30.

"We are trying to find a home for the 10 o'clock news and have had discussions with some people in town, but there is nothing imminent," KIRO-TV spokeswoman Judy Sladky said yesterday. "It's an open discussion."

The station will continue its 11 p.m. news. Up to now, it's been possible to air news at 10, as well as at 11, because UPN programming runs from 8 to 10 p.m. three nights per week. Major networks fill three hours or more of prime time seven nights a week.

It would not be the first time a 10 p.m. newscast was produced by KIRO and broadcast by another station, a practice that happens in many other cities. For several years beginning in 1991, as a CBS station, KIRO provided a 10 p.m. newscast to KTZZ-TV (WB).

KTZZ could be the home of KIRO news again. Said KTZZ general manager Wade Brewer: "There's been some discussion. We don't have any agreement between our companies other than they have opened the door to discussion."

But another, more prominent commercial station without local news is interested, too: KCPQ-TV (Fox).

KCPQ has been considering launching a 10 p.m. newscast of its own now that it is about to move from Tacoma to Seattle, into a state-of-the-art facility. But starting a news operation from scratch is expensive and risky, especially if there already is competition in the same time period.

"It would be something that would put us in the business until we felt we were up and ready to do it," said KCPQ general manager Roger Ottenbach. "They have a very nice product, and it certainly would enable the market to continue to watch the news they're now watching at 10."

If KIRO were to continue its 10 p.m. news hour on another station, KSTW, which plans to broadcast an hour of news at 10 after it loses CBS and picks up UPN, would find itself with entrenched competition it didn't expect. KSTW recently cancelled all but its late-night news and intended to concentrate on a 10 o'clock newscast after the network swap.

In other developments this week:

-- The complicated ownership changes that prompted the network switches and resulting programming chaos concluded yesterday following approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

KIRO, which had been owned by A.H. Belo of Dallas, now is owned by Cox Communications of Atlanta. And KSTW, previously owned by Gaylord Entertainment of Nashville, Tenn., now is owned by Paramount Stations Group of Los Angeles.

The ownership swaps involved cash and KMOV-TV (CBS) in St. Louis, which had been owned by Paramount and now is in the Belo chain. Belo now owns KING-TV (NBC) and NorthWest Cable News here.

-- KIRO later this week expects to announce programming plans under new vice president and general manager John Woodin. The station also announced yesterday that Mark Sabo, from WKBD-TV (UPN) in Detroit, will be the station's new controller.

KIRO's "7 Live" local morning show, sources say, will be absorbed into "CBS This Morning." The local segments will be called "7 Live This Morning," but insiders don't expect it to resemble the old show much. For one thing, the show's endlessly energetic, in-the-field feature reporter, Karen Shomo, is among seven who were given a layoff notice last week.

Among others leaving the station are arts-and-entertainment reporter John Procaccino, an 11-year veteran who has landed a role on Broadway in Wendy Wasserstein's "An American Daughter," and reporter Scott Sayres.

-- KSTW was to introduce new general manager Dick Williams today and outline its plans for the station as an affiliate of two-year-old UPN. Williams comes from WDCA-TV (UPN) in Washington, D.C., where he has been president and general manager for 8 1/2 years.

UPN is moving to KSTW because Paramount Stations and the United Paramount Network are corporate cousins.