Dennis Welsh is general manager of local TV stations WOFL-Channel 35 and WRBW-Channel 65. He spoke recently with TV critic Hal Boedeker about the new television season, which officially begins today.
CFB: Will 'The X Factor,' the new show from Simon Cowell, be on your news the way 'American Idol' has been?
The thinking is that 'Idol' has always made major news; we believe the show [X Factor] has the potential to be as popular. Simon is an enormous, proven name brand. The show, from what we've seen, is fantastic, with four judges and a different way to go about a singing competition. There are groups in the show, with a broad age range. We would take advantage of it in newscasts. We'll see how it unfolds. ["The X Factor" debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on WOFL.]
CFB: The Fox lineup this fall seems stronger than usual. What are your expectations?
For the last three years, from September to May, in Orlando we were No. 1 [in the 18-to-49 age group]. So now this [new lineup] will only make us more dominant. The last two years we've gotten better in the fall, but this lineup is a game changer. Obviously there's 'The X Factor.' Steven Spielberg is producing 'Terra Nova.' I call it 'Jurassic Park meets 'Lost.' [It debuts at 8 p.m. Sept. 26.] And 'New Girl' has potential. [The comedy debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday.]
CFB: What's the biggest challenge for you at Fox 35?
I would say the morning is the biggest focus. In the late news, every night with 10 o'clock we'd like to come in No. 1, but with DVRs it can be hard to achieve that. The 10 p.m. news doesn't look like the other guys' — it has a different vibe. Our 5 and 6 p.m. news have come on. But the morning is the focus, to build the 'Good Day' show and be the leader there. We have 81/2 hours of news a day.
CFB: You've made a lot of morning personnel changes. Will we see more?
We do have our main male anchor and female anchor, our team with Amy Kaufeldt and John Brown. We just couldn't be more excited. Amy is a proven local entity. She is one of most popular female anchors in town. We brought her to morning because the morning has struggled. We've seen some success. The ratings the last couple of months have been substantially up. Will there be more changes? Yes. Jim Van Fleet is leaving to go to Tampa. He did 10 great years here. We're looking to replace him with another great meteorologist. We're looking to add a feature reporter. We have a lot of plans for the show.
You're making some big changes in daytime. You had a format with the court shows; did you want to shake things up?
Dr. Phil is a Top 5 daytime show, especially with Oprah Winfrey gone. It had a very strong summer performance nationally. It's more suited to daytime than it was to 5 p.m. on WKMG. It kind of fits in with the court genre. He leads into 'Judge Judy' [at 4 p.m.]. She is No. 1 around the country. It's about her personality, her advice. We had her on WRBW for years. Slowly it's been building. Here it's taken time.
CFB: What about Dr. Phil's interview with George and Cindy Anthony?
It's a controversial show, but as we saw from the trial, there's a tremendous interest based on the massive daytime ratings of the six-week trial. Dr. Phil seems like the perfect person to talk to them. It's quite a story. [The three-part interview concludes at 3 p.m. today.]
CFB: What did the Casey Anthony coverage do for your newscasts?
I think that it showcased our unique style and approach to local news. We're trying to bring conversation back to local news. We're moving in a different direction from the other stations and kind of covering what we find interesting each day. We do cover all of the local news. You might not see us lead with a murder in a bad part of town. We'll be delving more into issues. You're more likely to see a discussion about holding the government accountable. We're trying to be more relevant than the tired '80s model of local news. We feel it [the Anthony case] showcased our style of news. We had experts on. We went live on the second day [of the trial]. We saw the great desire for it. We did massive ratings. A lot of people got addicted to the way we covered it.
Will we see more of those experts?
We've been bringing [lawyers] Diana Tennis and Hal Uhrig back. They were major factors in our [trial] performance. We've brought Diana back for anything legal or court-related. She has been on Fox and CNN. She's good.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times