Local TV

Marching Toward Madness

North Carolina’s ‘Triad’ hopes to keep NCAA hoops title in region 3/14/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What's Working in Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem

WXII recently wrapped a unique talent search, holding open auditions for someone to host “Girl Talk” segments in the Hearst TV station’s morning newscast. Hank Price, president and general manager, says almost 500 people turned up at a local Tanger Outlet to try out for the part. Girl Talk will initially run a few mornings per week, and perhaps expand. “It’s whatever women are talking about,” Price says.

The winner, local resident Mary Beth Brown, was announced in an hour-long primetime special March 3. A high-energy, self-described Delta Burke lookalike, Brown anchored a bit in college, but had not worked in television for years. WXII built up suspense about its new hire for weeks, and invited the public to weigh in on the final 10 hopefuls. Says Price: “Everybody in town was talking about it.” —MM

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The past two winners of the NCAA men’s college basketball championship
have come out of the Triad region of North Carolina,
and station managers in Greensboro–High Point–Winston-Salem fully expect national powerhouses Duke and
the University of North Carolina to bring it
again in 2011. CBS covers the games with cable
partner Turner, meaning a viewer windfall
for Gannett CBS affiliate WFMY.

“Basketball is huge here,” says
Bill Lancaster, WFMY general sales
manager. “March Madness is always
a strong performer.”

The market’s top TV outlets include
WFMY, Local TV’s Fox affiliate WGHP, and Hearst TV’s NBC
station WXII. The ratings titles are
spread around: WGHP won totalday
household ratings in the February
sweeps, a tenth of a point better
than WFMY. WGHP won prime
time more handily. The Fox affiliate
also had the highest late news rating
at 10, while WFMY won the crucial
11 p.m. news race, its 7.9 household
rating/15 share better than WXII’s 7.3/14.

Deborah Hooper, a 25-year veteran at
WFMY, left her GM spot earlier this year to
become president of Greensboro’s Chamber
of Commerce. Lancaster is in charge until a
new GM is named.

Hank Price, WXII president/general manager,
says Hearst TV’s backing gives his station
an advantage. “We came out of the recession
strong,” Price says. “The company has invested
in our future, and I think that’s paid off.”

Each of the big three is based in a different
section of the market —WFMY in Greensboro,
WGHP in High Point and WXII in Winston-
Salem. Rounding out the market are Sinclair’s
ABC affiliate WXLV and MyNetworkTV affiliate
WMYV, and TTBG-owned WCWG, a CW
outlet. WXLV-WMYV GM Ron Inman recently
departed the Sinclair stations.

Time Warner Cable is the dominant subscription-
TV operator, while AT&T’s U-Verse
is moving up. Sinclair recently inked a deal
with TWC for the cable operator’s News 14
franchise to produce news for WXLV starting
in 2012 [“Station to Station,” Feb. 21]. News
14’s Triad operation, which turns five later
this year, enjoyed record ratings when snow
hit the region earlier this winter.

DMA No. 47’s economy has shifted away
from tobacco, but it’s been a challenge. A new
Caterpillar plant means new jobs, while a Fed
Ex hub sparked employment and has made the
market more of a tech destination.

The TV business is off to a promising start in
2011, although the local economy continues
to find its post-recession footing. “The economic
struggles have affected a lot of folks,”
says Lancaster. “I don’t think it will improve
dramatically until unemployment goes down.”

With the ratings races so close, stations are
trying everything they can to get ahead. WGHP
launched local HD in September, the only
area station with such an offering.
“We’ve got a new set, new cameras,
new everything,” says Karen Adams,
WGHP president/GM. “We’ve gotten
such strong feedback.”

WFMY is pushing its “Get Answers”
brand. “We dig into stories
that are important to viewers,” Lancaster
says. “We help solve everyday
problems.”

WXII this fall will replace Oprah
with Dr. Oz, airing Dr. Phil at 3 and
Oz at 4. The station is also adding
more live video and breaking news to
wxii12.com, which Price says often
surpasses the combined traffic totals
of the daily newspapers in Greensboro
and Winston-Salem. “Web traffic has exploded,”
he says. “Our Website’s not an equal
partner with television, but it’s on its way.”

Price can give Deborah Hooper at the Chamber
a run for her money when talking about the
Triad. “Of all the places we’ve lived, this fits who
we are,” he says of his family. “We love the people,
we love the land, we love the weather.”

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

What's Working in Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem

WXII recently wrapped a unique talent search, holding open auditions for someone to host “Girl Talk” segments in the Hearst TV station’s morning newscast. Hank Price, president and general manager, says almost 500 people turned up at a local Tanger Outlet to try out for the part. Girl Talk will initially run a few mornings per week, and perhaps expand. “It’s whatever women are talking about,” Price says.

The winner, local resident Mary Beth Brown, was announced in an hour-long primetime special March 3. A high-energy, self-described Delta Burke lookalike, Brown anchored a bit in college, but had not worked in television for years. WXII built up suspense about its new hire for weeks, and invited the public to weigh in on the final 10 hopefuls. Says Price: “Everybody in town was talking about it.” —MM

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