Emily Barr exits WLS-TV

Emily Barr, who has led ABC-owned WLS-TV here in Chicago as vice president and general manager, is exiting the station after fifteen years for a post with Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc.

Barr is replacing current President and CEO Alan Frank, who is retiring after thirty years with the company. Post-Newsweek (a divison of the Washington Post Co.) is a chain of six television stations: flagship WDIV (NBC) in Detroit; KPRC (NBC) in Houston; WPLG (ABC) in Miami; WKMG (CBS) in Orlando; KSAT (ABC) in San Antonio; and independent WJXT in Jacksonville, which was a longtime CBS affiliate until 2002.

No replacement has been named yet for Barr at WLS. Barr begins her new position at Post-Newsweek in July, while Frank’s retirement become official at the end of this year.

Barr came to WLS from sister ABC O&O WTVD in Raleigh, N.C., where she was vice president and general manager from 1994-97. During her tenure at WLS, she kept the station on top of the Nielsen ratings, even during a time when ABC’s prime-time lineup was mired in fourth-place. WLS also survived the departure of three of its top-rated series: the home-grown The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the canceled ABC soaps All My Children and One Life To Live – all were part of the station’s ratings domination of the last 25 years.

In addition, WLS is the top billing station in Chicago by a wide margin. Last year, the station billed $164.3 million in pre-tax revenue, thanks in part to its strong local newscasts and syndicated fare.

Barr also helped launch (and managed) the Live Well Network digital subchannel, which is based in Chicago and is cleared in 60 percent in the country. Barr also created a local replacement for Oprah with Windy City Live, which has done well in the ratings since its launch (though not so well with critics.)

As for Alan Frank, he has been a success in his own right – before he was named President and CEO of Post-Newsweek in 2000, Frank was the longtime VP/GM of WDIV in Detroit for twelve years, which is every bit as dominant in the ratings in the Motor City as WLS is here in the Windy City.

Last year, the Post-Newsweek group took in $310 million in pre-tax revenues.

Frank is not the only TV executive ending a long run at the helm. Last week, Allen Cohen announced he was retiring from his position as vice president and general manager of Belo’s KMOV in St. Louis after an incredible 32-year run at the station, the longest current tenure in the U.S. Cohen became VP/GM in 1980 when it was KMOX-TV and still owned by CBS.

CBS sold KMOX to Viacom in 1986 (and changed the call letters to KMOV) to raise money to thwart off a takeover attempt by Ted Turner (ironically, CBS spun off Viacom in 1971 due to fin-syn and both rejoined in 1998, only to separate again in 2005.) Viacom sold KMOV to Belo in 1997.