Heat-Seeking NBA Final Spurs Post-Newsweek

Talk about hoop dreams—station group has two ABC affiliates, and both have their local teams in basketball’s big dance

Emily Barr, Post-Newsweek president and CEO, was eagerly
following the NBA’s Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference
Finals Game 7 on June 3—not because she’s an enormous
LeBron James fan, but because a Heat victory meant both ABC stations
in the group’s portfolio, in Miami and San Antonio, would have home
teams in the NBA championship. Barr was at a National Association
of Broadcasters dinner in Washington, D.C.,
surreptitiously checking scores on her phone
as Stevie Wonder performed and envisioning
an all-Post-Newsweek dream matchup.

King James and his Heat mates delivered,
and now WPLG Miami and KSAT San Antonio
are delivering too. “Ratings will be
enormous,” Barr said before the NBA Finals
kicked off June 6. “It’s several nights where
every game is another Super Bowl.”

Having a home team in a pro sports championship
can mean three-to-five-times more
revenue for the involved station, according
to an informal poll of several local TV executives.
One former Miami station GM estimated
30-second spots in Miami going for $30,000-
$40,000; others believed they would be higher.

Post-Newsweek also benefits from the stations
sharing resources during the championship,
as well as the vast promotional platform
a rabidly viewed series will warrant. “Not to
use a bad pun, but it’s a game-changer,” Barr
said. “We talked about it, thought about it,
projected it. But until the final buzzer sounds,
you never really know if it will happen.”

While the networks’ owned-and-operated stations have enjoyed having
two stations involved in an NBA Finals before, such as ABC with
the Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers in 2001, it’s much rarer for
a group such as Post-Newsweek, which occupies the last spot in B&C’s
top 25 station groups list and whose six stations cover 7.6% of U.S.
households. Miami is DMA No. 16, while San Antonio is No. 36.

But Post-Newsweek having double skin in the game is fitting. Barr
had a long career at ABC before shifting to run Post-Newsweek last
year (she can still rattle off the names of players on Michael Jordan’s
elite Bulls team from her first year as WLS Chicago general manager in
1997). And Dave Boylan, WPLG VP and general manager, is the ABC
affiliates board chairman.

“Post-Newsweek really hit the lottery,” Boylan said. “As the Heat won
the seventh game, all I could think about was, no matter who wins,
Post-Newsweek is a winner.”

Boylan is described by friends as a hardcore Heat fan. His station is enjoying
a massive promotional springboard in an extraordinarily competitive
market rich with deep-pocketed owners and well-established Spanish-
language stations. WPLG’s brand is Local 10, and Boylan sees the
Finals as two weeks of exclusive local programming in primetime. “Our
goal is to get people to tune in to our station,”
he said. “This gives them that much
more connectivity to who we are.”

WPLG offers a free Miami Heat mobile
app and a downloadable “Eastern Conference
Champions” poster adorned with the
Heat—and “Local10.com”—logos.

KSAT’s signal airs on San Antonio’s AT&T
Center Jumbotron when the Spurs are playing
in Miami. The station is selling 10-second
“shout-outs,” which sees companies buy time
to yell a supportive “Go Spurs Go!” on the
air. Phil Lane, KSAT VP and general manager,
is using the promotional soapbox to tout a
new mobile app for the station’s thriving Good
Morning San Antonio

The Heat-Pacers Game 7 did a 31.7
household rating on TNT in Miami, setting
up massive Finals ratings on WPLG. For his
part, Lane envisions Nielsen shares in the
60s locally, and “huge” revenue; similar to
Barr, he likens the NBA Finals to television’s
grandest event. “Interest is just tremendous,”
Lane said. “It’s [as many as] seven
Super Bowls over a two-week period.”

While ABC stations owned by the network and by Hearst TV offer
viewers the “Watch ABC” live-streaming app, Post-Newsweek’s stations
do not currently have such an arrangement.

The stations are producing pregame and postgame shows, and their
anchors are set up in and around the arenas. The dream matchup also
enables the two to share production trucks, footage and personnel—
and of course have the requisite wager, each putting a local delicacy
on the line (stone crab for WPLG, tacos for KSAT), and endless trashtalking.
“Every ABC station shares with its affiliates, but the plan becomes
easier when you’re in the same company,” said Boylan.

Boylan and Lane are predictably rooting for their local teams, while
Barr takes a different, more diplomatic approach. “I’m rooting for seven
games,” she said. “I want a fair and long fight. I want to see as many
games as possible.”

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