Cold but Heating Up
Forecast is sluggish, but city is progressing
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/19/2006 7:00:00 PM
Local broadcasters in Buffalo are finding market conditions as uncertain as an Upstate New York winter. The region is battling a sluggish economy, and the competitive landscape among stations is unsettled. In September, The WB and UPN will shut down and form The CW network, but Buffalo stations do not know who will align with the fifth broadcast network. Sinclair-owned WB outlet WNYO and LIN TV's UPN outlet WNLO are vying for the affiliation.
Despite the uncertainty, broadcasters' local-news ratings are among the best in the country. CBS outlet WIVB, also owned by LIN TV, has won every key newscast for the past 18 sweeps periods. In November, WIVB's late news averaged a 14.4 rating/25 share, making it the No. 10 newscast in the country among metered-market stations.
WIVB's main rival, Gannett-owned NBC affiliate WGRZ, is also highly rated nationally, with a 12.7/22 average that placed it at No. 20 in news in November. Granite Broadcasting's ABC affiliate is third in late news, with an 8.7/15.
Even the UPN affiliate, WNLO, grabs strong news ratings; it notched a 5.2/7 for its 10 p.m. news—better than some Big Three affiliates in other midsize markets. LIN TV stations' success is based on stability on both sides of the camera, says General Manager Chris Musial: “Western New York viewers feel very comfortable with our people.”
But Nielsen's No. 49 TV market is hampered by slow growth; local broadcasters took in $105.5 million in 2004, barely up from $103.2 million the year before, according to BIA Financial. Station managers say development in the city is progressing, and a strong political season, with gubernatorial and attorney general races, could deliver additional ad dollars. “Are we the next Charlotte or Atlanta? No, but we're on the way up,” says Nick Magnini, general manager of Sinclair's WNLO and Fox affiliate WUTV.
WIVB dominates, grossing $28.5 million in 2004, according to BIA. In November, the latest sweeps, the station won prime time and news and claimed the top syndicated show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. It adds The Megan Mullally Show next fall.
WIVB's competitors are playing up the alternative programming. Sinclair runs a 10 p.m. news on its WB station but keeps WUTV running sitcoms in late fringe to counterprogram news. The duopoly will add Scrubs, Friends and Dr. Keith Ablow this fall.
NBC affiliate WGRZ carries a version of NBC's 24/7 weather service, WeatherPlus, and the station is scoring strong ratings with the Olympics. Such is Olympic demand that the station's magazine show, Olympic Zone, is thriving. Says General Manager Jim Toellner, “It is preempting The Insider and even doing a little better.”
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