Former WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor Bill Murphy already has a line ready to explain his return to local TV, just 19 months after retiring from the Fox affiliate's weekend morning newscasts.
On Aug. 1, he'll join cable provider Bright House Networks' Tampa Bay On Demand selection of video-on-demand programs, presenting a series of profiles on local entertainment establishments called Murphy's Hot Spots.
Piggybacking off expertise developed filming WTVT's One Tank Trips segments, Murphy expects to film a couple of 12-minute segments a month in downtown St. Petersburg, Ybor City and Sarasota, among other locations.
"I went to the doctor, and he diagnosed me with Brett Favre syndrome," said Murphy, 63, who left WTVT on Jan. 4, 2008 — starting his Florida Day Tours travel service just as the sinking economy was battering tourism in the state. "After a year and half away, I'm not ready for full-time shuffleboard anymore."
And Murphy isn't the only area broadcaster joining the cable company. Victoria Lim, a former consumer reporter at WFLA-Ch. 8, will join the Bright House Sports Network (once known as the Catch 47 sports channel) on Aug. 17, serving as an investigative reporter and occasional anchor for the expanding channel.
Controlled by the family-owned Advance/Newhouse company, Bright House has presented news channels with twin purposes; generating advertising revenue while also serving as an inducement for subscribers to buy their cable TV service.
Terry Dolan, vice president and general manager at Bright House's Bay News 9 cable channel, noted that even as local broadcasters have laid off personnel and cut back, "we've had no layoffs, no furloughs and people are getting raises."
Lim left WFLA in November 2007, before the recent, crushing wave of cutbacks and layoffs that have buffeted the NBC affiliate. Back then, ready for a new challenge after 20 years in a newsroom, she said her dream job would be tackling investigations for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
"I currently play sports, I'm a fan, and I'm a journalist," wrote Lim, e-mailing the St. Petersburg Times from Hangzhou, China, where she is teaching multi-platform reporting. "Sports isn't just a form of recreation and entertainment. It's business."
For Murphy, his part-time work at Bright House offers a way to keep his hand in television work at a time when jobs are scarcer than ever. "And if this all works out," he said, laughing, "I might hit them up for free cable."