WNYA deal a likely home run

Low-rated station expects to see boost after acquiring rights to 21 Yankees games

CHRIS CHURCHILL Business writer
Section: Business,  Page: C1

Date: Friday, March 14, 2008

ROTTERDAM - For most of its short existence, WNYA has been a television station without a strong brand or identity. Station officials believe that's about to change.

WNYA, which is Channel 15 or 51 over the air and Channel 4 on cable, has secured the rights to air 21 New York Yankees games. And it has hired former WTEN broadcaster Dan Murphy to be the station's frontman. The moves bring hope and purpose to a station that has struggled since the 2006 merger of The WB and UPN, at the time two unprofitable networks targeting younger audiences.

WNYA had been a UPN affiliate and quickly joined the MyNetwork TV after UPN was folded into The CW.

But the programming offered by MyNetwork TV, launched in 2006 by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, hasn't exactly been a ratings-generating sensation. The network has been quite the opposite, actually.

"It got off to a slow start," conceded Duncan Brown, WNYA station manager. So WNYA, which brands itself as MyTV4, faced a problem: It was connected to a network with few notable personalities, and it doesn't air local news, which is the primary way stations establish a bond with local audiences.

But the Yankees? Well, they have some notable personalities.

"You're immediately on the map once you sign the Yankees," said Chris Markellos, the station's general sales manager. "It's going to bring a lot of eyeballs to the station."

Though his star power may not rise to Derek Jeter-like levels, Murphy is a known figure in the Capital Region. The former sports anchor was at WTEN from 1989 to 2005 and hosted the program "Murphy's Law" on radio station WOFX (980 AM) before being fired in December.

"I'm going to be the face of the station," Murphy said of his WNYA role. "I'm here to give the station a local presence and be a person that people know."

Most immediately, Murphy will host a half-hour pre-game show before every Yankees game, with the first such broadcast set for April 18.

But Murphy expects to host a range of other shows, including non-sports programming. Monday was his first day at the station, which is located in a Rotterdam building that was once home to the WMHT public television and radio network. WNYA executives declined to say how much they paid for the right to broadcast Yankees games, which had been seen on WXXA, Channel 23, the Fox affiliate in Albany. But they note the 21 games will be available nowhere else on Capital Region television. The rest can be seen on the Yankees-owned YES Network.

And three of the WNYA games will be against the Boston Red Sox, the 2007 winner of the World Series and the Yankees' archrival. The Red Sox also have a large contingent of Capital Region fans, so those games should bring boffo ratings for WNYA.

In fact, WNYA attempted to be the local outlet for both the Yankees and the Red Sox, said Brown, the station general manager. But Major League Baseball rules disallow the local broadcast of Red Sox games beyond New England's borders.

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or by e-mail at cchurchill@timesunion.com.

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MyTV4Station: WNYA Address: 17 Fern Lane, Rotterdam Channels: Seen on channels 15 and 51 over the air, and Channel 4 by Time Warner subscribers Launched: 2003 Employees: 10 Owned by: Venture Technologies Group LLC, Los Angeles Web site: http://www.mytv4albany.com