WPVI, mired in last place in the news ratings in the 1960s, changed its format, leading to four straight decades of TV ratings dominance in Philadelphia.
Tonight at 8, WPVI, ABC’s Philadelphia O&O, is taking viewers down memory lane in an hour-long special celebrating its 50 years branded as Action News.
The station was mired in last place in the news ratings in the 1960s, until it changed its format to a more fast-paced, more regionalized news coverage with lots of video created by its news director, Mel Kampmann.
Thus was born Action News in April 1970 which quickly became Philadelphia’s overwhelming favorite TV news brand, leading to four straight decades of TV ratings dominance.
Yes, Action News is “everywhere” in the minds of news viewers in Philadelphia thanks to clever, consistent branding and a product that delivers on that brand.
But it’s also about stability in front of and behind the camera. Their talent is well-established, well-known and well-liked, starting with the gold standard of local TV news anchors, Jim Gardner.
Their talent has high name recognition across the board in every newscast thanks to a consistent, daily practice from newscast to newscast. For example, as the evening’s 6 o’clock newscast ends, Jim Gardner invites viewers to watch the station’s later newscasts, and mentions each and every anchor, meteorologist and sports anchor on that program. Every night.
And although everybody knows who Jim Gardner is, he always identifies himself in every news topical, night after night.
It’s not just the people who work there now who are beloved. Mention Jim O’Brien or Gary Papa in a conversation about Action News to Philadelphians, and they’ll smile sadly.
O’Brien, a popular weatherman on Action News, died in 1983 in a parachute accident, and Papa, a sportscaster on WPVI for almost 30 years, died of cancer in 2009.
The special will feature other familiar faces, including Larry Kane, Dave Roberts, Lisa Thomas-Laury, and more.
“This program will be a great trip down memory lane for any fan of Action News,” said John Morris, WPVI’s VP of multiplatform programming.
“Everyone here has loved producing this special, and we think our loyal viewers will have a great time looking back with us as they watch the program.”
“It’s our viewers who have made Action News No. 1,” said Bernie Prazenica, WPVI’s general manager, “and this special is a salute for their many years of support.”
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