Heat-Seeking NBA FinalSpurs 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 program.

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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