Local TV

Market Eye: Cashed Out

Dayton mourns loss of NCR HQ 6/13/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Sometimes referred to as “Little Detroit,” Dayton, Ohio, has suffered its share of economic ills. The market heard endless Scrooge jokes when General Motors closed its plant in Moraine on Dec. 23. Then in early June, global tech firm NCR Corp., which hatched 125 years ago from the Dayton barkeep who invented the cash register, announced it was moving its headquarters to Duluth, Ga., citing a “pro-business environment.”

“People have been down,” says WKEF General Manager Dean Ditmer.

The relocation means around 1,300 jobs will disappear from the No. 64 DMA. Yet general managers say there is hope. The market is shifting from a manufacturing base to more of a tech and financial services environment. Planners are building up the infrastructure, such as new interchanges on the highway, to make Dayton more pro-business. Downtown Dayton features minor league baseball, a new performing arts center and the early stages of a riverfront renewal project.

“We're facing the same challenges as most people, but we're plugging along,” says WDTN VP/General Manager Lisa Barhorst.

The stations have reasons to smile. Two were recently cited for standout performance nationwide: WHIO was singled out by CBS for being the nation's top affiliate in most major categories, including primetime, The Early Show and late local news in May. WBDT, celebrating 10 years on the air this month, was given a Model for Success award by The CW for leading all of the network's outlets in several categories. “It's reinforcement that the team is doing the right things,” says VP/General Manager John Hannon.

Cox's WHIO is indeed a big, big winner. The CBS affiliate more than doubled any rival in terms of total day and primetime household ratings in May. It also took morning, evening and late news crowns, the latter with a resounding 16 rating/29 share. Next best at 11 was LIN's NBC outlet WDTN with a 4.9/9.

WHIO VP/General Manager Harry Delaney credits CBS' high-flying primetime and a consistent news brand for WHIO's success. “We're a hard-news station—we don't do features,” he says. “It's news that affects people's safety, education and health.”

Sinclair owns ABC outlet WKEF, which manages Cunningham's Fox station, WRGT. ACME owns the CW affiliate, whose 10 p.m. news comes from WDTN. WRGT won the 10 p.m. news race, its 6 rating/9 share topping WBDT's 2.7/4.

With plenty to report on as Dayton charts its future, the stations are expanding their reach. More than 5,000 users have downloaded WDTN's mobile news application for the iPhone, and WRGT has a new 6:30 p.m. newscast. Says WKEF's Ditmer: “We're trying to meet the ever-growing need to be more relevant in our community.”

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michael.malone@reedbusiness.com

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