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Ann Martin May Be Headed to KCBS : Television: Channel 2 deal would reportedly pay her more than $1.5 million a year. KABC withdraws contract offer to the station's longtime anchor.

March 19, 1994|STEVE WEINSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Local TV-news insiders predicted Friday that longtime anchor Ann Martin will land at KCBS-TV Channel 2 now that KABC-TV Channel 7, her professional home for the past 18 years, has retracted its lucrative offer to retain her services.

KCBS, which has been struggling for the past two decades to make headway in the news ratings, reportedly has offered Martin a multiyear deal that would pay her more than $1.5 million a year.

Bill Applegate, KCBS' general manager, was not available for comment Friday, but he has said in past interviews that when major local news players become available, he would be interested.

Some local news observers, who asked not to be identified, speculated that top-rated KABC's announcement Thursday might cut into Martin's price tag since there was one less station bidding for her.

KABC General Manager Alan Nesbitt said in an interview Friday that Channel 7 had been offering Martin a huge raise since last September. He would not disclose the exact terms of the deal, but he did not dispute published reports that put it at $1.3 million annually for five years. Martin currently makes about $750,000 to anchor the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news.

"It seems strange that we couldn't keep her, because I think she really wants to stay, but we had a very generous offer on the table and never got any response from her representative," Nesbitt said. "And we decided we were not going to be taken to the last minute and then into some kind of public auction. I'm terribly disappointed and somewhat mystified."

Ed Hookstraten, Martin's agent, did not return phone calls Friday. Martin, who will continue on the air at KABC until her contract expires next month, was on vacation and could not be reached.

Nesbitt said the KABC offer is now completely off the table, but he did not rule out the possibility that the station would re-sign Martin if the situation changed during the next month.

Sources speculated that if Martin does land at KCBS, the station will probably release anchor Bree Walker when her option comes up later this year.

Nesbitt predicted that KABC would maintain its lead in the local news ratings without Martin.

"There may be some short-term hits in ratings, but viewers make their choices based on more than just one person," he said. "We still have a lot of anchor stars and rising stars, and I'm confident that KABC will do just fine and will continue to satisfy our viewers."

Other local observers said that losing "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which provides KABC with a huge lead-in advantage to its daily news block, would be a far more significant loss than Martin.

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