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Colts, Tribune sign deal to air shows on WXIN: WISH makes own adjustments in wake of change

May 29, 2006

The Indianapolis Colts have signed a two-year deal with Tribune Co., moving the team's two television shows from Lin TV Corp.'s WISH-TV Channel 8 and WNDY-TV Channel 23 to Tribune's WXIN-TV Channel 59.

"The Bill Polian Show" will air 10:30 p.m. Saturdays starting this fall, and "Colts Up Close" will air Fridays at 11:30 p.m. To beef up its Colts affiliation, local Tribune officials also are working independently on a Colts post-game show, which will air on WXIN sister station WTTV-TV Channel 4 on Sundays following the games.

"The decision to change didn't come down to the talent at WISH. They did a good job, and we still have a very strong relationship with them," said Tom Zupancic, Colts senior vice president of sales and marketing. "It comes down to what we can buy time for, and Tribune made us a better deal."

WISH, a CBS affiliate, had been the Colts' local broadcast partner the last three seasons.

The Colts buy time from local stations to air "The Bill Polian Show" and "Colts Up Close" and the franchise sells ads during the shows. About 30,000 to 50,000 households tune into the Colts' TV shows, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research, and team officials said ad sales have made the shows profitable.

"The Bill Polian Show," which will be produced locally by the Tribune Co., will be co-hosted by Polian, the Colts' president, and WXIN sports anchor Chris Denari. "Colts Up Close," a feature-oriented show, will be produced by the Colts and co-hosted by Zupancic and Jeffrey Gorman, the team's manager of broadcast services.

The Colts are preparing a marketing campaign to inform fans of the change, and Tribune will market the shows locally through its stations, Zupancic said.

WXIN officials hope this is the first step in an expanded relationship with the Colts, the hottest professional sports commodity in town.

"We hope there are other marketing opportunities we can become involved in with the Colts," said Jerry Martin, Tribune's local general manager. "With the Colts' current popularity, we feel very good about this deal."

WXIN officials hope the Colts shows will boost ratings for the Fox affiliate's programming directly before and after the new shows, especially its nightly news. Local news advertising is one of the most important revenue streams for local broadcasters.

"These shows fit in well with our latenight programming and should draw viewers," Martin said.

Ironically, Fox nationally broadcasts NFC games and CBS airs AFC games, so WISH will continue to televise Colts games; 11 are on the schedule for the upcoming season.

"We have a strong working relationship with the Colts, and we're disappointed we couldn't continue to air these shows," said WISH and WNDY General Manager Jeff White.

Despite the loss of the two shows, White said WISH is planning to bolster its coverage of the Colts, who are expected to compete for the Super Bowl.

WISH will launch an 11:30 a.m. Sunday lead-in show to CBS' national telecast. Sports anchors Anthony Calhoun and Chris Widlic will host the local show. The show, which has yet to be named, will be produced and sold by WISH officials.

"Sunday morning is a great time to catch the NFL audience, and we think this show will do very well," White said.

With the absence of "The Bill Polian Show," WISH will run its "Sports Locker" show hosted by Calhoun and Widlic at 11:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. White said the content would revolve around the Colts and the NFL.

"The Colts are consistently the highestrated sports programming in this market, without a doubt," White said. "We look forward to being a part of that."
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