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WTSP faces challenge to replace three meteorologists

Management at St. Petersburg's CBS affiliate insists it will never come to this: having just one weather forecaster on staff deep into hurricane season.

But WTSP-Ch. 10 does face a challenge in weeks to come, as meteorologists Sherry Ray Hughes and Chris Suchan are both scheduled to leave the station by the end of September.

Because the station hasn't yet replaced chief meteorologist Tammie Souza, who left WTSP in January, that means Bobby Deskins could be the last man left standing in the CBS affiliate's weather department, if replacements aren't found.

"We haven't found them yet, but we are actively pursuing replacements," said Ken Tonning, general manager at WTSP, who plans to have people in place before both meteorologists leave.

Hughes is expected to leave on or about Aug. 15 for personal reasons, Tonning said. Suchan will depart on Sept. 30, likely to take a chief meteorologist's job at another station he declined to name.

"It's not a 100 percent situation, but I feel good about it," Suchan said in a voice mail left with the St. Petersburg Times.

WTSP is no stranger to drama in its weather department. Souza's departure came just two years after she arrived from Chicago to replace Dick Fletcher, a near-30-year veteran who died in January 2008 after suffering a stroke. (It took WTSP seven months to announce Souza's hiring.)

In a TV market where weather reporting is increasingly important, could WTSP face the tail end of a hurricane season with three meteorologists local viewers don't know?

"We'll have two or three really good new meteorologists," Tonning said. "That's what I can say for sure."

• • •

Besides changing the face of daytime television nationally, Oprah Winfrey's departure from broadcasting will have a significant impact on local TV schedules, too.

WTSP will move the Dr. Phil talk show to 4 p.m. Sept. 12, a move previously disallowed by an agreement between host Phil McGraw and his mentor Winfrey, who insisted his show could not air against her in any TV market.

The change is possible because Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8 will stop airing reruns of Winfrey's Oprah show at 4 p.m. in September, instead broadcasting her protégé Dr. Oz at 4 p.m.

This also means the station can move low-rated game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to 7:30 p.m. (along with Inside Edition at 7 p.m.), just in time to see any area contestants discovered by local auditions. The local tryouts begin at 7 a.m. today in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay (2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa, FL 33607).

But both shows may be placeholders for bigger game; in fall 2012, WTSP will debut popular game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. time slots.

Read Eric Deggans' blog at tampabay.com/blogs/media .

WTSP faces challenge to replace three meteorologists 07/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:03am]
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