For years, Long Islanders have known WLNY 55 as the TV channel for reruns, movies, old shows and a bit of news at 11 p.m. Its placards listing the rundown of Judge Judy, Ellen and Law and Order are plastered all over Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Now something new has been added: in 2012, it will be owned by CBS, whose WCBS 2, has dominated local airwaves for years along with the other network-owned stations, Disney's WABC 7, and NBCUniversal's WNBC 4.
Terms for the acquisition of Melville-based WLNY 55 weren't disclosed. New York-based CBS owns 28 stations in major markets already, so adding the Suffolk County based WLNY 55 will be its 10th duopoly in a major market. Only 16 of the stations are CBS network affiliates, though.
Clearly, WLNY 55 and principal owner Michael Pascucci, will get a great price for the sale. CBS reported holding $947 million in cash on Sept. 30.
But will Long Islanders benefit? For sure, Ch. 55 enjoys cable coverage all over the greater New York area. But because it lacks original programming most of the day, it's not a factor in news, sports and regional activity.
By contrast, Cablevision's News 12 has been around for years -- and became stronger when it bought Newsday for $650 million in 2009 in the Tribune bankruptcy -- and Verizon Communications' FiOS 1 channel has been trying to compete recently.
Long Islanders, though, talk about seeing something on News 12 and also rely upon Cablevision for traffic and weather reports. FiOS 1, which came later to the Island, is catching up.
CBS Stations president Peter Dunn said once the acquisition is complete, We also look forward to having a bigger and better news bureau on Long Island.
That could only improve coverage. Currently, the New York stations, also including News' Fox 5 and WWOR-TV 9 and Tribune's WPIX 11, have some Nassau and Suffolk news as warranted but not with daily regularity.
With cable as well as WiFi -- Ch. 55 was one of the first to work with Qualcomm's MediaFLO service for smartphones -- a CBS-owned channel on the Island could derive local advertising and offer local news and public affairs programs.
The demographics are sound, too, as the combined Nassau-Suffolk population of about 3.9 million serves up an affluent market. That could be one reason why WNET 13 snapped up its PBS affiliate WLIW 21 in Plainview in 2003. Both stations now offer more regional content as well as paying members.
Next year looks good for broadcasters. The presidential election alone will generate billions in ad dollars. New Yorkers will have a statewide race for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's seat because the Democrat selected to replace Hillary Clinton won only a two-year term last year.
Then there will be the five (or maybe four) congressional races, plus others for the legislature. If the economic recovery keeps growing, non-election ad spending could grow.
Competing with News 12, though, will be a challenge, even if the former's offering is rather flat and uninspired. There's no reason why a stronger regional channel couldn't offer tailored coverage to new arrivals in Nassau and Suffolk from Haiti, Iran, Latin America, China, India, Pakistan and South Korea, too.
Both Cablevision and FiOS 1 issued statements welcoming CBS. If they are truly competitive, they might use the interim to devise and launch new coverage before the deal closes.
For years, Long Islanders have advocated for more TV coverage through the Coalition for Fair Broadcasting, which got the city stations to assign at least one person to the Island. Now, with the CBS and PBS duopolies, perhaps we can expect more.