Alan Riebe will soon say goodbye as vice president and general manager of WANE-TV.
The broadcasting veteran of four decades plans to retire from the Fort Wayne-based station at the end of this year, he said.
He’s stepping down as the television industry continues adapting to changes in digital technology and increased competition from different forms of media.
WANE’s next general manager and future leaders of local TV stations will have to stay on their toes to keep ahead of the shifting environment, Riebe said.
“I’m leaving at a time when the business is in a state of historical change,” he said. “There are a lot of exciting things related to that, but it will be a challenge to make sure that you’re on your best game to manage all those situations. Companies will have to be very visionary down the road or they’re just going to get run over.”
Riebe’s career started nearly 44 years ago after he graduated from Ball State University in 1972 and took an on-air job at a radio station in Winchester, followed by positions at stations in northern Indiana and in Piqua, Ohio.
He moved into TV when he took a sales job at WFFT-TV in 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was shot. After almost 10 years there, and briefly at Asher Agency, he joined WANE in 1992. He worked his way up to general manager in 2003.
As WANE grew into the local market’s top-rated station, one of Riebe’s biggest challenges was guiding the business through the conversion to digital television. The conversion required engineering and construction overhauls to upgrade the over-the-air signal and equipment and to update processes. Despite the headaches, the conversion took place with few problems, he said.
“That was probably the greatest reflection of how good people are here,” he said. “That’s what I’ll miss. I’ve been blessed with so many good people here. It’s made my job so much easier because they get it the first time, they’re proactive, they’ve got some vision.”
One of the most memorable accomplishments for him at WANE was the creation of a weekend morning news program six years ago.
“It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said, pointing out how the show has strong ratings.
With his coming retirement, the husband, father and now grandfather plans to spend more time pursuing his interests, including a long-overdue long vacation with his wife.
“There is no such thing as a two-week vacation in broadcasting,” he said. “I owe her some travel.”
Riebe’s successor as general manager is not yet known.
WANE owner pursues new merger with Meredith
WANE-TV’s parent, Media General Inc., plans to acquire another media company less than a year after completing a large merger deal.
WANE should not be affected by the merger, the station said.
The Richmond, Va.-based Media General entered into an agreement on Sept. 8 to purchase Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corp. in a $2.4-billion cash and stock sale, Media General said in a statement.
The transaction would create a new company called Meredith Media General and boost it into the third-largest television station owner in the country. The company would have 88 stations in 54 markets and reach about 30 percent, or 34 million, of the nation’s TV-viewing households.
To help win approval from federal regulators, the company intends to divest or swap stations in overlapping markets in Oregon, Tennessee, Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as along the North Carolina-South Carolina and Florida-Alabama lines.
Under the deal, Meredith shareholders will receive cash and stock valued at $51.53 per share.
Media General expects the merged company to see $3 billion in annual revenues, more than $900 million in net income before expenses, and more than $80 million in total synergies within the first two years after the sale closes.
In addition to TV stations, Meredith distributes media via print and through a large digital platform with more than 200 million monthly unique visitors. This gives Media General a greater ability to diversify products and leverage Meredith’s brands and expertise to have the largest reach among female demographics.
“This merger creates greater opportunities for profitable growth than either company could achieve on its own,” J. Stewart Bryan III, Media General’s chairman, said in a statement. “Importantly, shareholders of both companies will benefit from the upside potential of a diversified and strategically well-positioned media company.”
The deal now awaits approval from shareholders of both companies and from federal regulators. Media General expects to close on the merger by the end of June 2016 and keep the company headquartered in Virginia.
Bryan is expected to remain as chairman of the new company with Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy to serve as chief executive. The statement did not say what was in store for Media General’s current CEO, Vincent Sadusky.
He stepped into that position when, in December, Media General closed on the acquisition of LIN Media, WANE-TV’s previous parent company.
South Bend TV station caught in corporate consolidation
WSBT-TV in South Bend will likely go up for sale as the station’s owner, Schurz Communications Inc., enters an acquisition deal.
Atlanta-based media company Gray Television Inc. plans to purchase the Mishawaka-based Schurz’s radio and TV properties for about $442.5 million, Gray said in a statement.
The move is expected to help Gray expand to a total of 49 TV stations in 28 states and increase net revenue to potentially $774 million.
In order to win regulatory approval, Gray will divest two of Shurz’s TV stations in the South Bend and Wichita, Kan., markets, where Gray also has a presence.
Since Gray owns WNDU-TV, South Bend’s NBC affiliate, the company will sell WSBT, the CBS affiliate, to another broadcasting company.
Gray will also take over Schurz’s radio station group in South Bend, as well as in Lafayette and Rapid City, S.D.
The acquisition could close by the end of this year or early next year, according to the statement.
Mad Ants adopted by Pacers
The Indiana Pacers now serve as the sole parent of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Indianapolis-based NBA team, purchased the Mad Ants earlier this month from the previous owner, Fort Wayne Basketball Group, the Pacers said in a statement.
Terms of the deal were not released.
With the deal, the Mad Ants became the 10th team in the NBA’s Development League – the official minor league for the association – to be fully-owned by an NBA franchise. The Mad Ants were also the last of the D-League’s 19 teams to form a single-affiliation relationship with a parent franchise.
“Our goal in starting the Ants was to bring Fort Wayne something fun and exciting for families and basketball fans to enjoy,” Jeff Potter, the team’s former president and majority investor, said in the statement. “Although our run with the team is ending, we are so pleased to see our team placed in such great hands, and we wish the Pacers nothing but the best.”
Potter will stay with the team, serving as president of business operations.
Upcoming changes include the naming of Brian Levy as general manager. He was previously the assistant general manager for the California-based Bakersfield Jam, the D-League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. Announcements about coaching staff changes are yet to come.
The Mad Ants’ ninth season at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum starts later this fall. The team won the D-League championship in 2014 and was the runner-up for the crown earlier this year.
Mayoral TV campaign begins
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s reelection campaign has taken to the airwaves with the 2015 mayoral election now less than two months away.
The campaign launched its first television advertisement earlier in September. The spot extends Henry’s theme of city momentum by showcasing accomplishments such as neighborhood improvement investments and fiscal policy, his team said in a statement.
The campaign also launched digital ads on new media outlets.
Henry, as the Democratic incumbent, is running for his third term in office. He faces Republican City Councilman Mitch Harper on Election Day, Nov. 3.
The candidates are scheduled for a televised debate on Oct. 26, WANE-TV said.
The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics will host the event at the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus, and WANE will broadcast it live.
Moderators will lead the debate with Henry and Harper covering downtown and community development, public safety, and the city’s future as the main topics.