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WNGS Owner Hopes to Create Buzz with WBBZ

Alan Alda (born January 28, 1936) is an Americ...

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Phil Arno, the 60-year-old North Buffalo native who owns WNGS-TV, is looking to create some buzz for the station next week.
At or about 5 a.m. Monday, Arno is changing the call letters of his independent station from WNGS to WBBZ.
“The call letters stand for Buffalo Buzz,” explained Arno. “We’re the only commercial station TV station in the market based in Buffalo. None of the six other Buffalo stations is owned and operated from here. They’re not in Buffalo. They are seeing how much money they can take from Buffalo every year.”
“When (Channel 4’s) Don Postles and Jacquie Walker read the news, some guy in Indianapolis is telling them when to break, when to stretch, when to laugh and when to cry,” said Arno.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. The person in control in Indy doesn’t tell them when to laugh or cry.

But Arno’s larger point is true. Channel 4 (WIVB-TV) and Channel 23 (WNLO-TV) are owned by LIN TV, which is based in Providence, R.I. Channel 29 (WUTV) and Channel 49 (WNYO) are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which is based in Baltimore. Channel 7 (WKBW-TV) is owned by a hedge fund sponsor based in Connecticut. Channel 51 (WPXJ-TV) in Batavia is owned by ION television, which is reportedly based in Florida. Channel 2 (WGRZ) is owned by Gannett, which is based in Virginia.
In addition to changing the call letters of his independent station (which is also available in HD), Arno is changing the programming and constructing a studio that will enable WBBZ to eventually air local programs that may feature such local TV celebrities as Susan Banks, Susan Hunt, Lauren Fix, Dan Neaverth and Barry Lillis. Arno said he has spoken with them all about various projects. He added he also has spoken with former heavyweight boxer Joe Mesi about working in TV.
But first the programming change. Arno plans to move the station’s movie package from syndicator THIS to a sub-channel or digital channel and carry something called Me-TV (Memorable Entertainment Television) on WBBZ’s main channel (which has a great spot on cable’s Channel 5).
“It is a tremendous schedule,” said Arno. “Every one of its shows is a former No. 1 show.”
The ME schedule includes reruns of “Cheers,” “M*A*S*H” with Alan Alda (above), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” ”The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Dobie Gillis,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Perry Mason,” “Cannon,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “The Big Valley,” “Hawaii Five-O (the original version) and “Rawhide.”

Arno said WBBZ will have to wait until Sept. 6 to carry “Cheers” and “I Love Lucy,” whose rights are owned by Channel 2 until then. It carries them as part of its noon Classics package.

He added the movies on WNGS have been popular and he may bring some back for an afternoon matinee or on some evenings. Arno also is enthused about his local TV plans. He eventually is planning to produce a morning show, a game show, a local version of “The Tonight Show” with a local comedian as host, a local talk show version of ABC’s “The View” and a show geared to the military.
He has more than $1 million budgeted to build two studios in the Eastern Hills Mall (where the station is located) and to produce the local shows. He hopes the version of “The View” will be ready to air some time in October.
His master plan includes a healthy dose of sports. He’d like to be involved with the Buffalo Sabres and possibly carry Buffalo Bandits games, University at Buffalo football games starting in 2012 and a high school football game of the week.
And he’s thinking about adding shows that feature a local Battle of the Bands and a show that reviews video games that is aimed at younger viewers.
It all sounds good, incredibly ambitious  – and difficult to pull off.
“Time will tell, won’t it?” said Arno.
He said the station started breaking even financially in four or five months and thanks to its coverage of a New York Yankees package is doing well this summer.
Now he wants to create more buzz.
“People asked me what my target audience is,” said Arno “It is Western New York. We want to be connecting with every segment of Western New York.”
He isn’t concerned about disconnecting with WNGS, which was named because of its obvious connection to one of WNYs food specialties — the chicken wing.
“From its beginning, WNGS was a low level station,” said Arno. “It didn’t really have much of a presence in the market.”
He wants WBBZ to change that and become a much bigger presence.
“We want to change the way TV operates in Western New York,” said Arno. “The closest thing to equate it to is when TV started. There were no network affiliations and stations had to be creative.”
In other words, Arno is relying on a call letter change, reruns of popular shows and original local programming to take WNY back to the future.

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9 responses to "WNGS Owner Hopes to Create Buzz with WBBZ"

  1. A. Rodirguez says:

    Is this the “WBBZ Manifesto”? I hope it works better than WECK’s.

  2. Rick says:

    Will they ever get HD for Yankee games on DirecTV?
    Pretty annoying when the games are on WNGS and not in HD.

  3. Pergy's friend says:

    I actually thought that picture of Alda was Arno.

  4. Chris says:

    How come you didn’t mention that WGRZ is also not locally owned? You mentioned everyone else.

  5. Joe says:

    Thanks!, finally a good station for the basic cable person.

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