KWHY-22’s 5 and 10 pm local newscasts have been canceled, effective today. With very few exceptions, the station’s entire news, marketing and sales staff were laid off in the process. About 50 to 60 people today lost their jobs – about 40 were from the news department.
Employees were notified of the cancelation of “Noticias MundoMax 22” and layoffs during a noon staff meeting. Only 5 employees will be transferred to the MundoMax payroll and will be moving over to the MundoMax building on Sepulveda Blvd.
Among those that will hold on to jobs: the station’s lead anchor, Palmira Pérez, who will be doing one-minute local and national news briefs for the network, reporter Víctor Cordero and news director Ingrid Luquetta. It is not yet known what roles Cordero and Luquetta will have at MundoMax.
Some of those laid off said they expected different news at the meeting – that the station’s owners would announce they would once again become an independent TV station, after RCN took full ownership of MundoFox and rebranded the network.
Instead, staffers say, management told them Meruelo Media had signed a deal for RCN to lease KWHY-22’s signal and take over the station’s operations.
A source says the station’s owners – the Meruelo Group – who have other construction, real estate, food services and private equity holdings, and only entered the television broadcast industry with the purchase of KWHY just 4 years ago, felt running a TV station was too much of a hassle and that they weren’t making enough profit to continue operations.
In a late afternoon press release, MundoMax and Meruelo Media announced that under the terms of the partnership deal with RCN Television Group, MundoMax will assume sales and marketing responsibilities for L.A.’s KWHY-22 and Houston’s KUVM-CD Channel 34, “in cooperation with existing station management.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
What will happen with Super 22 and LA1?
Another source disclosed that as part of the deal, Meruelo Media cannot produce any local content. RCN/MundoMax is also taking over the digital subchannel Super 22 to rebroadcast the network’s programming.
Earlier this year, Meruelo Media president Otto Padrón announced the launch of a new superstation to be called LA1. What will happen to that project remains to be seen.
MundoMax will be taking over operations of both stations starting tomorrow, September 1. The new sales structure will be headquartered in New York, with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.
MundoFox/MundoMax VP of National Sales Edward Jimenez will lead the new sales structure, alongside Tom Maney, who, according to network president Ibra Morales, “will remain in an advisory role for the near future.”
The future of the station, however, may well be defined with the broadcast spectrum auction in March of 2016. If the Meruelo Group is not interested in remaining in the broadcast industry, they could very well auction off KWHY’s signal.
Meruelo Media, which bought KWHY-22 from NBCU/Telemundo in 2011, was an independent station until 2012, when it became MundoFox’s flagship affiliate.
With RCN’s recent full acquisition of MundoFox, the network and all its affiliates underwent a rebranding to MundoMax. At the time, MundoMax shut down national news operations, laying off its news department personnel.
Now, news is off the menu at the local level as well, with the cancelation of “Noticias MundoMax 22.” Today’s 5 pm slot was filled with an old dubbed extreme video show.
There may be some hope for news in the future at the network. The MundoMax release states the network will “return in 2016 with a revamped national news format.” No other details about that news format were revealed at this time.
UPDATE 9/1/15: During a phone interview, Meruelo Media spokeswoman Sara Picazo emphasized that RCN isn’t taking over the station, but rather control of the station’s signal, now overseeing content, programming, sales and marketing operations.
“Meruelo Media will continue its media business operations, including operating its secondary digital channels, production studios, broadcast center and radio station KDAY 93.5 FM,” she says.
Otto Padrón continues to be President of Meruelo Media, overseeing the company’s media business operations.
The “expanded partnership” includes the leasing of the signal to RCN/MundoMax. Meruelo Media still owns the stations in L.A. and Houston and will provide the technical support to transmit the signal.
FCC rules don’t allow full foreign ownership of U.S. television stations.