Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh boss Jayne Adair is leaving the sports cable channel to return to broadcast television as station manager over Fox-affiliate WPGH-TV and Warner Brothers-affiliate WCWB-TV.
Adair, who replaced Bill Craig as general manager and vice president in February 1998, yesterday told employees at the local sports channel about her departure.
She will start work at Channels 53 and 22 on May 1.
"I think it's a great opportunity for me because the two stations that Sinclair owns, because of the Fox and Warner Brothers programming that they carry, have a unique appeal in this market to a younger demographic," Adair said. "I feel that demographic is critical to the future of Pittsburgh. One of the things I've learned in this job is, one of the ways to talk to younger people in this market is sports. I think my experience here will have an application there."
Adair, 51, previously worked in local-television management at WQED and KDKA, where she was the executive producer of Pirates baseball and Penguins hockey. She replaces Mike Norten, who left in February after seven months as the WPGH and WCWB general manager.
"She's got a fabulous reputation in Pittsburgh," said Dick Singer, regional manager for WPGH and WCWB. "She's been here 20 years and knows this market as well as anybody. She's had experience in all facets of the television business -- public television, programming and sales management in commercial television -- and is unbelievably well-rounded. The fact that she is really committed to living here in Pittsburgh is really great."
There's little difference between the duties of station manager and general manager, Singer said. He added that "initially, Jayne's focus will be more on sales than anything else."
Adair became closely familiar with the Sinclair stations because Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh produces Penguins and Pirates games that appear on the over-the-air broadcast stations.
"What attracts me to [the post] is to further the experience I have managing local television in this city," said Adair, who will go from overseeing 31 full-time cable employees to 100-plus at the two broadcast stations. "There's a track for professional growth there as well. And there's the chance to work with Alby [Oxenreiter, the WPGH sports director].
"But it's hard to leave. I'm feeling pretty emotional about it, actually. I've been here ... when sports was a front-page story. I've been fortunate to work in sports when it clearly meant so much to the future of the city. To get to know and work with people like Stan Savran and Guy Junker and Mario Lemieux and Kevin McClatchy has really been ... something I'll never forget."
With Adair at the helm the past 14 months, Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh renegotiated its rights deals for the Pirates and Penguins at higher prices and longer terms, tying up the teams for most of the decade. The cable channel added the Bill Cowher weekly news conference to its lineup, later lengthening it from 30 minutes to an hour, and brought aboard the football coaches' news conferences at Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and Notre Dame.
Fox Sports Net regional vice president Hunter Nickell is expected to meet with the channel's employees today. No timetable has been set for naming a replacement for Adair.