Local TV

Believe the Hyph

Multiple cities and flavors in a mega-hyphenated Pa. market 12/13/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What's Working in Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York

Community outreach goes a long way in DMA No. 39. WPMT has had a number of unique campaigns, such as last year’s “Save Our Plants” motorcycle rally aimed at persuading Harley-Davidson to keep its plant in York. (The motorcycle icon had been contemplating a move.) The Tribune station recently debuted its “Add One Job” initiative to combat unemployment: Local companies are encouraged to add a single post to their payrolls.

Larry Delia, WPMT VP/general manager, learned from his time in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina not to wait for the government to aid people in need. “The idea was, let’s band together and help the economy,” he says.

WHTM did some good after a local house fire that killed five residents, including children. The Allbritton station partnered with Kidde to distribute smoke alarms to those who needed them. “It felt good for the station to live up to [its] ‘Working For You’ [brand],” says Joseph Lewin, WHTM president/general manager.

There are hyphenated markets, and then there’s Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York in south-central Pennsylvania. DMA No. 39 is one of the rare fourcity
markets in the U.S., and station general managers say it can be tricky to
cover. “The cities are not real close to each other,” notes Joseph Lewin, WHTM
president/general manager. “It’s a real challenge for
news coverage, promotions and sales, but that’s life in a
hyphenated market.”

The market’s wide geographic spread offers
an equally broad array of landscape,
from the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg
to traditional suburbs to the rolling farmlands
and Amish country that draw tourists
to the craft shops and restaurants. “It’s wonderful,
postcard scenery,” says Paul Quinn,
WGAL president/general manager, “especially
in spring and fall.”

WGAL puts up picturesque ratings numbers—
Quinn notes the Hearst TV station is
No. 1 among top 50 market stations in household
share at 6 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and 11
p.m., and has been for years. The NBC affiliate
had a pretty typical May sweeps (it’s a Nielsen
diary market, so November sweeps results
won’t be available for some time), winning
total-day household ratings and morning,
early evening and late news. WGAL put up a
7 HH rating/25 share at 11 p.m.—way ahead
of Allbritton-owned ABC affiliate WHTM’s
3/12. (Fox affiliate WPMT, owned by Tribune,
posted a 6 rating/13 share with its 10 p.m. news.) Newport
TV’s CBS affiliate, WHP, virtually split the primetime
ratings title with WPMT.

Quinn says WGAL’s news success comes from a combination
of robust investigative work, tireless community
service and anchor longevity. “It’s a million things, not one,”
he says. “Our anchors are seen as members of many viewers’
families, invited into their living rooms and bedrooms,
trusted to give them news in a straightforward manner.”

Lancaster-based WGAL’s 2009 revenue haul was $28
million, according to BIA/Kelsey, well ahead of WHTM’s
$15.4 million. Other players in the market include Nexstar’s
CW outlet WLYH, managed by WHP; and independent
WGCB, owned by the John Norris Estate. Airing the
likes of Happy Days and Hogan’s Heroes, WGCB bills itself
“Family 49” and uses the cheery tagline “It’s All Good!”
WHP airs MyNetworkTV programming on its .2 channel,
while Universal Sports airs on WGCB’s channel 49.2.

The market is home to numerous manufacturing concerns,
including one of Harley-Davidson’s three U.S.
plants, and an array of snack-food vendors, including
Utz and Snyder’s of Hanover. Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-
York retains much of its agricultural past, and has
a growing health care presence. That range of economic
drivers helped Harrisburg-Lancaster survive the recession
in decent shape. “As an economically diverse market,
it’s less susceptible to booms and busts,” says Holly
Steuart, WHP VP/general manager. “It’s not recessionproof,
but maybe it’s recession-resistant.”

Stations are innovating to grab ratings points. WHP
is playing up its breaking-news brand and enjoying the
support of owner Newport, which acquired the former
Clear Channel TV stations in 2007. The Harrisburgbased
outlet has bureaus in Lancaster and York, giving
it greater coverage. “Under the previous ownership, the
station didn’t cover the whole market,” says Steuart. “It’s
not how you win in this market.”

WHP indeed won the Mid-Atlantic Emmy for best
medium-market newscast in September.

WPMT this month fl ips on the only local high-def
newscast; a year ago, the station introduced 6:30 and 11
p.m. newscasts a year ago, for a total 32 hours of weekly
local news. The 11 p.m. program offers interactive elements.
“Anchors are mousing around, responding directly
to viewers’ questions,” says Larry Delia, WPMT
VP/general manager.

In September, WHTM and WGAL debuted 4:30 a.m.
newscasts on the same day. A month earlier, WGAL
launched a 6-7 a.m. weekend news. The station
is set to switch to a 16 X 9 format, and
Quinn says HD will likely follow in the first
quarter. WLYW added 10 p.m. newscasts to
weekends in September, giving the outlet
seven nights a week of primetime news. Next
year, the station will pair The Big Bang Theory
with How I Met Your Mother in syndication.

The stations fight it out on the Web as well.
WGAL.com invites users to receive breaking
news headlines on their mobile phones and
taps the “u local” program for user-generated
photos and video. WHP offers PARewards.
com
, an incentive program in which viewers
type in keywords they see on air and redeem
points for everything from a Sony PlayStation
3 to admission at Hershey Gardens. Steuart
likens PA Rewards to an airline’s frequent-flier
program. “It’s been a very good secondary
revenue source for us,” she says.

WHTM’s abc27.com features political
news from Politico.com, and WPMT has a
lively social media presence, including a Twitter widget
on the fox43.com homepage that shows the latest
tweets from the news team. The station also plays up
its “Add One Job” employment growth campaign (see
sidebar) on the homepage.

All those hyphens can be a challenge, but general
managers at the four cities’ stations say the region offers
great access to major markets—and some neat things
within its own borders too. “It’s a very welcoming and
friendly part of the country,” says Lewin. “I’ve never
been any place where people are so supportive.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

What's Working in Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York

Community outreach goes a long way in DMA No. 39. WPMT has had a number of unique campaigns, such as last year’s “Save Our Plants” motorcycle rally aimed at persuading Harley-Davidson to keep its plant in York. (The motorcycle icon had been contemplating a move.) The Tribune station recently debuted its “Add One Job” initiative to combat unemployment: Local companies are encouraged to add a single post to their payrolls.

Larry Delia, WPMT VP/general manager, learned from his time in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina not to wait for the government to aid people in need. “The idea was, let’s band together and help the economy,” he says.

WHTM did some good after a local house fire that killed five residents, including children. The Allbritton station partnered with Kidde to distribute smoke alarms to those who needed them. “It felt good for the station to live up to [its] ‘Working For You’ [brand],” says Joseph Lewin, WHTM president/general manager.

 

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