Ann Martin, who has been a mainstay reporter and news anchor at KABC-TV Channel 7 for 18 years, has jumped stations and will land at KCBS-TV Channel 2 in what insiders are calling the most lucrative deal ever for a local television news anchor.
Martin will join KCBS’ “Action News” on May 16, anchoring the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts along with current anchor Michael Tuck, the CBS-owned station said Tuesday. She will replace Bree Walker, who is leaving on the same date to form her own TV production company. Walker has been at KCBS for 5 1/2 years.
Details of Martin’s contract were not disclosed, but the new job reportedly will pay her at least $1.7 million per year and may be closer to $2 million annually, according to sources.
Martin had been making about $750,000 anchoring the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news at KABC. Walker was said to be earning about $800,000 a year.
Martin’s closest competitor in the anchor salary race would be her former KABC colleague Paul Moyer, who signed a six-year contract with KNBC-TV Channel 4 in 1992 paying $8 million.
Rumors have been circulating for months about Martin’s possible defection to KCBS, and they escalated last month when KABC withdrew a $1.3-million offer to Martin during negotiations.
“I am very happy to be at KCBS-TV,” Martin said in a statement. “After many years at KABC-TV as a reporter, co-host and anchor, I have outstanding memories. Many of the executives and newspeople with whom I have worked for the most part are no longer with the station. I am looking forward to my new affiliation, as I have always admired and respected CBS News. I’m happy to be a new addition and look forward to a long future at KCBS-TV.”
Martin’s move closely follows the exit of KABC News Director Roger Bell, who was fired last month.
KABC officials did not return phone calls Tuesday. But General Manager Alan Nesbitt, who took over at Channel 7 last November, had said earlier that he felt the station would maintain its dominance in the local news race even without Martin.
KCBS General Manager William Applegate said Martin’s hiring was part of an ongoing process of building the station’s ratings and stature. Channel 2 has trailed rivals KABC and KNBC in the news ratings for most of the last two decades and has been in various states of turmoil for the last several years because of changing management and news styles. Community groups and employees also have complained recently of alleged racism and sexism in the newsroom.
The fat salary for Martin is a reflection of how important anchors are deemed to be in the battle to attract and hold viewers, but as KNBC has learned with Moyer, one anchor is not necessarily the key to ratings supremacy.
“The acquisition of Ann Martin’s services and talent is just one piece of the puzzle,” Applegate said. “In order to have a successful newscast, it will take a lot of things. Having an anchor with her stature is a nice, positive step, and we need to make more positive steps.”
He said the station was close to hiring a new weekend anchor to replace Hosea Sanders, whose contract is not being renewed.
As part of the revamping, KCBS last week unveiled an elaborate, graphics-heavy set that was said to have cost about $1.5 million.
“We need great anchors, good product, a good set and graphics and a newscast that is pleasing to the eye,” Applegate said.