Former ABC 7 sales manager returns as station’s top boss
Chicago’s No. 1 television station has a new boss.
John Idler, a former head of sales at WLS-Channel 7, was named president and general manager of the ABC-owned station Monday. Since December 2007, he’s been president and general manager of WTVD-TV in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
Idler, 46, replaces Emily Barr, 54, who stepped down last month after 15 years to become president and CEO of Post-Newsweek Stations. Coincidentally, Barr also headed WTVD before she was promoted to ABC 7 here in 1997.
“John Idler’s outstanding track record in Raleigh/Durham and his earlier local TV management experience in Chicago demonstrate a consistent commitment to excellence in community service and station operations,” Rebecca Campbell, president of the ABC Owned Television Stations, said in a statement. “We all congratulate John on his promotion as he returns to WLS-TV in Chicago as president and general manager.”
Idler’s name first surfaced on this site May 10 — two days after Barr’s resignation — when he was identified as a frequently mentioned candidate for the position. He’d previously spent five years as vice president and general sales manager under Barr at ABC 7.
"John is a terrific leader who's demonstrated that he can handle tough assignments, and I think he'll do a terrific job," Barr told me shortly after Idler's appointment was announced. "He not only has the knowledge and experience necessary for the job, but he's very familiar with the ins and outs of Chicago television — and that will be an enormous benefit to him as he takes over. I really do think the world of him."
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison who also holds an MBA from the University of New Haven, Idler began his career as a planning analyst and sales planning manager for CBS Network Television Sales. He also worked for NBC Television Stations Sales and Marketing, Tribune Broadcasting/CLTV and Telerep/Cox Enterprises. He joined ABC 7 as a sales executive in 1998 and was named vice president/sales manager in November 2002.
Idler returns to a station that has led the market in ratings and revenue for more than 25 years. In the latest May ratings period, ABC 7 again won overall households and key 25-to-54 demographics in every news time period. But with declining market shares and the loss last year of The Oprah Winfrey Show as a daytime juggernaut, the station may be vulnerable.
As the new general manager, he faces a realignment of the daytime schedule with the addition of Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show this fall and Kelly Ripa’s next fall, as well as the impending moves of the syndicated magazine Inside Edition and game show Jeopardy! from their longtime slots at 3 and 3:30pm, respectively.