Buffalo Soldiers

Troubled NY market slogs toward light at end of tunnel

Buffalo may be mired in a protracted economic slump, but there's never been a better time for news in the No. 51 DMA. Time Warner Cable (TWC) launched the 24/7 channel YNN on March 25. WKBW has grown its presence through the user-submitted YouNews program. WIVB and WGRZ have been using Web service Skype to transmit live video, and WGRZ has a multimedia journalist (MMJ) crew of about six.

“We're doing a lot of the MMJ stuff—it's allowed us to have the most people out there,” says WGRZ President/General Manager Jim Toellner, mentioning a recent study in The Buffalo News that counted 27 on-air staffers at the station—tops in the city.

LIN's CBS affiliate WIVB rules ratings. President/General Manager Chris Musial says a May win would mark nine straight years of winning each newscast race in sweeps. The LIN duopoly added two hours a day of its Wake Up morning newscast in February.

Musial says stability on both sides of the camera is the key to WIVB's success. “We've got people who came to Buffalo years ago and decided this was home,” he says. “That commitment to the community goes a long way in this market.”

WIVB won all major races in March. There was a good battle at 11 p.m., with WIVB posting a 12 household rating/22 share, ahead of Gannett-owned NBC affiliate WGRZ's 10/19. Other stations include Granite's ABC outlet WKBW, Sinclair's Fox-MyNetworkTV duopoly WUTV/WNYO, LIN's CW station WNLO, and of course the new cable channel. TWC Regional VP Steve Paulus says the city was overdue for a round-the-clock news outfit. “People here feel like this is something Buffalo deserves,” he says.

Buffalo's economic woes are well known, and its population drain notorious. But the market is a bit better off than one might expect, managers say. There is construction going on downtown; a new medical center is bringing good jobs to the area, along with demand for multi-use high-rises. While a Seneca Nation casino project is on hold, general managers say there are glimmers of economic hope. Auto sales showed some gains in March, and real estate is picking up, too. “For the first time in a while, there is optimism,” says WUTV/WNYO General Manager Nick Magnini.

Magnini sees the Sinclair duopoly as pure entertainment, offering the likes of Two and a Half Men and Seinfeld in HD. WGRZ airs 24-hour weather on a digital channel, and WIVB is using its “4” branding in economy-themed segments like 4 Your Money. “We get a lot from the community,” Musial says. “We feel a strong commitment to pay that back.”

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