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WTVT general manager is bound for L.A.

By ERIC DEGGANS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 2000


After spending the last three years building WTVT-Ch. 13 into one of Fox's top affiliates nationwide, the last thing general manager David Boylan expected was to be starting a new job today.

But Boylan found out this week he'd be changing ZIP codes in a hurry, named by Fox officials as the new vice president and general manager at KTTV in Los Angeles. He was expected to start work this morning at the Fox-owned affiliate.

It's a serious opportunity for Boylan, who leaped from the country's 13th largest TV market to a top job in the second largest market, quite literally overnight.

Issues loom at KTTV, where former general manager Diana Vargas resigned last month. Morning co-anchor Jillian Barberie will guest as a co-host on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee next week, an audition to replace Kathie Lee Gifford when she leaves the show later this year.

"We were really happy in Tampa . . . I wasn't looking for new challenges," admitted Boylan, 48, who also will oversee Fox's regional sports network in California and remain involved with running WTVT until a replacement can be found. "Though my biggest challenge (in Los Angeles) will probably be finding an affordable house."

When Boylan came to WTVT from Greensboro, N.C., in 1997, he inherited a station struggling to find its identity. Fox had just completed purchasing the outlet from New World Communications, and the operation was still trying to cope with viewership drops that followed its switch from CBS to Fox affiliation in 1994.

"We told people we won't Fox-ify the station, we'll Tampa-fy Fox," said the general manager, who increased the station's newscasts to eight hours each weekday -- the most of any local station. "We were able to maximize the localism Fox gives you."

Juggling the anchor lineups and refining the station's daytime programming -- aided by the success of The Jerry Springer Show and Judge Judy -- Boylan made room for Fox-style extremism without turning off more conservative local viewers.

The moves paid off: the station has won distinction as the highest-rated Fox affiliate among prime time viewers ages 18 to 49 during the past two years. WTVT also has been cited in a survey by the Hungerford Report as the TV station with the largest share of advertising revenue in the Tampa Bay area last year -- a market valued at $275-million total, Boylan said.

"Most people here realize (Boylan) is the guy who got us to become a premiere Fox station," anchor John Wilson said. "He was a quick study on who we are and what made us what we are."

In some ways, Boylan may be getting out while the getting is good.

Rival WFLA-Ch. 8 has juiced up its anchor lineup and now dominates ratings in most news hours. WTVT also is still embroiled in a lawsuit filed by two former investigative reporters who say station officials wanted them to lie in a series of stories involving chemical giant Monsanto.

Still, Boylan says he's sad to be leaving the area. "We quickly established deep roots in Tampa," he added. "I've loved every day at this station."

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