The cry goes up: 'Where's Geraldo'?

January 04, 1995|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Staff Writer

More than 2,500 Baltimoreans were confused enough by the great affiliate switch yesterday to call one of three hot lines set up by the network affiliates -- enough to keep the phones ringing steadily, but far from the deluge of confused, angry viewers station officials had feared.

What's more, most callers had specific, easily answered questions -- like, "Why isn't "Geraldo!" on at 11 a.m. anymore? (Channel 2 has moved it to weekdays at 12:05 a.m.) -- and few seemed unduly bothered by having to track down their favorite shows on another channel.

As of late afternoon yesterday, Channel 11 (1-800-844-WBAL) and Channel 2 (481-ABC2) had each fielded about 800 calls at the phone banks set up in their Baltimore studios. WJZ-Channel 13, which had hired a service in suburban Philadelphia to handle inquiries to its phone line (1-800-WATCH13), answered 1,164 calls between midnight and 4 p.m.

Pandemonium did not reign.

At Channel 2, the phone bank "lit up" when it opened for business at noon, said Marc Robertz, creative services director at WMAR and the man in charge of the phone bank there. By 1:15 p.m., more than 400 calls had been logged by the dozen or so volunteers manning the phones. The most-asked question: "Where's "Geraldo?"

Following that initial surge, however, things quieted down considerably. A TV crew from Denver, which is doing its own affiliate switch later this year, found little mayhem to record. The phones continued ringing every few minutes, but the volunteers had plenty of time to chat among themselves. Things would pick up again, they suspected, as prime time approached.

One woman called at 2:14 p.m., saying she was looking for "One Life to Live" on Channel 13. The man who answered her call politely suggested she look on Channel 2. Another caller wanted to =know if all the switching around meant ESPN2 would now be available in Baltimore City. He was told to call United Artists Cable.

Nancina Thompson of Baltimore County was typical of the viewers who called. She thought the affiliate switch was "insane" and "confusing," but didn't really seem all that upset. She just wanted to know what had happened to "Geraldo!"

"Most of the calls are just asking where their favorite shows are," said Emerson Coleman, director of broadcast operations for WBAL-Channel 11. "Once they know that, they are very understanding."

"I felt everyone had a decent grasp of what was going on," said Joe Lewin, general manager of WMAR-Channel 2. "If you sit back and just think about it, it's very simple. Only the network programming is moving."

The facts of the switch are pretty simple: Channel 2 now carries ABC programming, Channel 11 has reverted back to NBC -- whose shows it carried as recently as 1981 -- and Channel 13 ended a 46-year affiliation with ABC and shifted to CBS.

What seemed simple on paper, however, could have proved disastrously confusing yesterday as viewers sat down to watch their favorite soaps -- and were horrified to find the 1 p.m. slot on Channel 13 that previously belonged to "All My Children" was now offering the second half of "The Young and the Restless."

But Susan Lucci fans in and around Charm City seemed to take the confusion in stride. Most either already knew to look elsewhere or simply flicked the channel selector until she was found.

"It's actually a little bit less than we expected," Marcus Alexander, general manager of WJZ, said of the volume of phone calls. "In other markets, the numbers have been considerably higher."

In Kansas City, where only two stations were involved, 10,000 confused viewers called in, said Mr. Robertz. A similar situation in Phoenix led to 6,000 phone calls.

Of course, no other market has seen all three of its network affiliations change at the same time -- a fact that had some TV-types here fearing the phone would never stop ringing.

Then again, station executives here have had more than six months to prepare.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.