Local TV

Fox Secondary Channels Are Primary Successes

'American Idol' and 'The X Factor' flying on a multicast tier? Dot-two newbies say proof is in the numbers 8/13/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Around the Multicast Dial

For the vast majority of stations, the option of adding Fox or CBS as a multicast does not exist. But their selection of digi-nets is vast. There are popular movies and vintage series (This TV, Me-TV, Antenna TV), Spanishlanguage entertainment (Estrella TV), African- American themed (Bounce TV), healthy living (Live Well Network) and music videos (TheCoolTV), among many others.

The multicast networks are pushing to ink new deals and expand their content offerings before the fall season kicks off. Me-TV added KTVX Salt Lake City and KOKI Tulsa on July 30; the net will debut on WSYR Syracuse Sept. 10. Me, whose affiliate count is 132, will launch Remington Steele at 8 p.m. come fall.

Bounce TV, which has 73 affiliates including WXYZ Detroit, is looking to launch more original programming. Antenna TV has 68 station partners; the net is adding Benson and Barney Miller to its mix.

ABC’s Live Well Network, which has picked up WJLA Washington, KSTP Minneapolis and a handful of the former Newport TV stations, including WPTY Memphis, has 67 affiliates. On Sept. 8 Live Well will add Food Rush, hosted by former Top Chef contestant Ryan Scott. The net plans to launch two more shows in January.

Live Well lost a key figure when Emily Barr left to run the Post-Newsweek station group. Peggy Allen, vice president of programming and operations, now reports directly to ABC station group chief Rebecca Campbell. With shows helmed by the likes of former Biggest Loser winner Ali Vincent and ‘N Sync alum Joey Fatone, Allen says Live Well has shifted its focus. “We’ve moved away from how-to to more storytelling with big personalities,” she says. “The takeaway is integrated into the story.” —MM

When the Fox network and a number of its
affiliates were parting ways over retrans-related
differences during that wild summer of 2011, and
Fox announced it would instead broadcast on some new station
partners’ subchannels, many wondered how the heck a network
could possibly reach a full-scale audience as a dot-two.

But as some of those
partners approach the
one-year mark as Fox affiliates, their ratings—and
revenue—suggest that
Fox has done just fine on
secondary channels. For
stations such as Indiana’s
WEVV Evansville and
WTHI Terre Haute, adding
the likes of American
Idol
, The X Factor and NFL
football to their local TV
portfolio has been a blessing.
“As a general manager
in this position, I can say
it’s been a lot of fun. This
does not happen a lot around the country,” says Tim Black, WEVV
general manager. “It’s been a blast seeing it come together, and I’m not
sure you could ask for things to go any smoother.”

Stations have a wide array of multicast options available, including
their own homespun news and weather, and digital networks covering
everything from popular movies and series to healthy living to
Spanish-language entertainment.

But a Big Four network is a more ideal option. To be sure, the socalled
“short markets,” where a certain network is not represented, are
uncommon, and they are limited to smaller DMAs. Among the 22 dottwo
channels airing Fox, Evansville (DMA no. 104) and Fort Wayne
(no. 109) are the largest markets; both dot-twos came on board with
Fox amid the 2011 af! liates shake-up. More typical are subchannels in
Marquette, Mich. (no. 180), and Mankato, Minn. (no. 198).

For those lucky enough to have a Big Four network available, it is
the gold standard in multicasting, and a duopoly at a time when such
arrangements are increasingly hard to come by. “You get recognition—
you get a brand,” says Chip Harwood, a multicast network distributor.
“You’re selling [an established] brand
in your market—it’s Vampire Diaries versus
This TV.”

The Flipping Summer

The stormy summer of 2011 saw Fox flip
several affiliations, including moving from
WFFT Fort Wayne (Ind.), to the subchannel
of Granite’s WISE, departing WFXW
Terre Haute to a multicast of LIN’s WTHI
and going from KSFX Springfield (Mo.) to
Koplar-owned KRBK’s subchannel.

More recently, Fox found new station partners
in Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, Idaho,
with both displaced stations switching to
This TV on July 1.

WEVV’s Black says he heard from a number
of clients that viewership would plummet
with Fox on his station’s dot-two. To
that point, he counters with the household
ratings from Game 6 and Game 7 of last
year’s World Series on Fox: a robust 19 rating/
34 share and 25 rating/41 share respectively.
“When people try to tell me viewers
can’t find the station, I point to those numbers,”
Black says. “If people want to see [a show], they’re gonna ! nd it.”

Ratings are mostly level with those from the previous season, Black adds,
when Fox aired on primary channel WTVW; at most, a show is off 10%.
Key to driving viewers to Fox’s new home in Evansville was a
$100,000 outdoor media campaign. WEVV also worked with electronics
stores to distribute flyers announcing the change. “We manned
phones and covered email and social media,” says Black, “but we never
really received an avalanche of calls or emails.”

To some degree, Fox’s own high-wattage programming, whether it’s
a series or sports, is its own marketing device. When WTHI bumped
TheCoolTV for Fox on its dot-two last September, people were determined
to find their NFC games on Sunday afternoons, says Todd
Weber, vice president and general manager. WTHI also sweetened the
pot by launching a 10 p.m. news on its dot-two.

Coming up on a year as part of the Fox family, Weber says Fox on
WTHI’s dot-two has 10% of the market’s household ratings share and
is likely No. 3 in the revenue pecking order. The ratings share is down
from 12% last year on a primary channel, but Weber notes that shortly after losing the Fox affiliation, Nexstar’s
WFXW switched to an ABC affiliate (and
call letters WAWV), giving the market a
fourth network affiliate. “We’re real pleased
with an audience share of 10%,” he says.

That Fox is able to produce comparable ratings on a multicast channel
is a testament to the strength of the network’s brand. Showing that
it can work on a less visible channel may also give the network additional
leverage when it comes to negotiating affiliation agreements.

Fox declined to comment for this story.

Harwood is not surprised to hear that ratings held up on the dottwos.
“There might be a very, very small dropoff,” he says. “But as long
as you have cable carriage and, obviously, over the air, it shouldn’t be
a big deal at all.”

Several stations, including WGGB Spring! eld (Mass.), have been airing
Fox on a subchannel for years. Fox may be the most visible network
on the multicast tier, but it’s not the only one. Among other examples,
CBS is a multicast at NBC affiliate WNKY Bowling Green (Ky.), and
NBC airs on ABC affiliate WIVT Binghamton’s (N.Y.) digital tier. A
year after launching, the ABC multicast of KSBW Monterey (Calif.),
an NBC outlet, tied for first in primetime adults 25-54 rating in May.

Among the dot-two duopolies, CBS and Fox seem to go together
particularly well, reaching both ends of the demographic scale. That
combo has worked at WBOC Salisbury (Md.) since Fox replaced
UPN six years ago. “Fox21” was No. 2 in primetime in May, says
Craig Jahelka, vice president and general manager, with a 6.9 household
rating/12.1 share and a 4.9/12.9
in adults 25-54.

“We’re thrilled to be a Fox affiliate,”
Jahelka says. “We have the No. 1 and
No. 2 networks.”

A Double-Edged Sword

Of course, partnering with Fox
means partnering with Fox—and
dealing with the stiff retrans-sharing
commitment that spawned the affiliate divorces last year. Jahelka says
there’s no slack for dot-two affiliates.
“We play by the same rules as everybody
else,” he says. “If you want to be
a Fox affiliate, you agree to the terms.”

For some of the new Fox affiliates, it’s all good—a chance to air
rare big-tent programming and an opportunity to extend their news
brand, which is a particularly lucrative proposition in an election year.
Buoyed by its first year with Fox, WTHI expanded its news on the Fox
channel Aug. 11, airing 10 p.m. news seven days a week instead of five. Weber calls adding Fox to WTHI a “game-changer.”

“Having Fox prime and sports, and to be able to have our news
brand at 10 p.m.” he says, “it’s a 100% upgrade.”

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

Around the Multicast Dial

For the vast majority of stations, the option of adding Fox or CBS as a multicast does not exist. But their selection of digi-nets is vast. There are popular movies and vintage series (This TV, Me-TV, Antenna TV), Spanishlanguage entertainment (Estrella TV), African- American themed (Bounce TV), healthy living (Live Well Network) and music videos (TheCoolTV), among many others.

The multicast networks are pushing to ink new deals and expand their content offerings before the fall season kicks off. Me-TV added KTVX Salt Lake City and KOKI Tulsa on July 30; the net will debut on WSYR Syracuse Sept. 10. Me, whose affiliate count is 132, will launch Remington Steele at 8 p.m. come fall.

Bounce TV, which has 73 affiliates including WXYZ Detroit, is looking to launch more original programming. Antenna TV has 68 station partners; the net is adding Benson and Barney Miller to its mix.

ABC’s Live Well Network, which has picked up WJLA Washington, KSTP Minneapolis and a handful of the former Newport TV stations, including WPTY Memphis, has 67 affiliates. On Sept. 8 Live Well will add Food Rush, hosted by former Top Chef contestant Ryan Scott. The net plans to launch two more shows in January.

Live Well lost a key figure when Emily Barr left to run the Post-Newsweek station group. Peggy Allen, vice president of programming and operations, now reports directly to ABC station group chief Rebecca Campbell. With shows helmed by the likes of former Biggest Loser winner Ali Vincent and ‘N Sync alum Joey Fatone, Allen says Live Well has shifted its focus. “We’ve moved away from how-to to more storytelling with big personalities,” she says. “The takeaway is integrated into the story.” —MM

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