Market Eye: Delta Force in Mississippi

Raycom’s WLBT has some unique assets in Jackson, but the competition is upping its game

Why This Matters

A Super Showing In September


WJTV got a taste of big-time football’s draw when it hosted “SEC Super Saturday” on Sept. 14. Kicking off coverage at 10 a.m., the Media General station had three consecutive SEC college games and did the pregame for the primetime Ole Miss vs. University of Texas showdown live from Austin, Texas.

The station also produced halftime shows that were unique to the Web and mobile devices. “We had a lot of viewer interaction,” says Jimmy Cromwell, WJTV VP/general manager. “It was a great day for us.”

Cromwell calls Super Saturday “the perfect concerted effort” for the various WJTV departments, including sports, news, digital, promotions and sales. The Super Bowl will be on Fox, but the CBS affiliate has already cashed in on gridiron glory. “From a revenue standpoint,” Cromwell says, “it was like Super Bowl Sunday.” —MM | @BCMikeMalone

The TV stations in Jackson, Miss., have a particularly close
relationship. WLBT is set to mark the one-year anniversary of a shared services agreement with the Fox affiliate,
WDBD. WDBD, meanwhile, has a joint
sales agreement with WLOO after its parent
donated the station to a local college.

WLBT is a hub for a statewide news network,
sharing content with its Mississippi-based Raycom
siblings and other stations Raycom has
operating agreements with. “I don’t know of
any other state that can duplicate what we are
doing here,” says Dan Modisett, VP/general
manager at WLBT. “It’s a huge advantage.”

Modisett, a Jackson native, mentions another
WLBT advantage that’s rare for a market of
Jackson’s size — the only TV-station helicopter.

Yet the competition is raising its level of play
to challenge the NBC affiliate. WAPT is the
only station live at 4:30 a.m., and its newscast
features a new set, live truck and a third TVUPack,
compliments of Hearst Television. “They
tell me, you keep growing, we’ll keep feeding
you,” Stuart Kellogg, president and GM, says of
Hearst. “Not a lot of stations are adding folks.”

WAPT is aligned with ABC. WJTV, a CBS
affiliate, added The CW to its subchannel after
the former CW station, WRBJ, was sold to
Trinity Broadcasting and converted to religious
programming. “Mississippi’s CW” replaced a
weather channel and rolled out its full schedule
in late October following a soft launch.

American Spirit Media owns WDBD and
sold WUFX — now WLOO — to the historically
black college Tougaloo for a dollar. WLOO airs
MyNetworkTV and syndicated programming.

WLBT, WJTV and WAPT were virtually
tied in total-day household ratings in the May
sweeps. WJTV took primetime. WLBT won
the key news races, including 10 p.m. with
a 9 household rating/20 share, just ahead of
WAPT’s 8/18 and WJTV’s 7/15. (WLBT won
the adults 25-54 race at 10 p.m. too.)

Retrans Shutdowns Are ‘No Fun’

WLBT will soon begin producing weekend
prime news for WDBD. Jackson has a huge
appetite for local product. “Local news ratings
points are really high compared to the rest of
the country,” says Jama Killingsworth, WDBD
GM. “It’s a market where local news is king.”

DMA No. 94 is roughly evenly split between
African-American and white residents, according
to BIA/Kelsey. Modisett says WLBT thrives
with a workforce that reflects the makeup of
Jackson. “There’s more diversity at this station
per capita than any one I can think of,” he says.

Comcast is Jackson’s major pay-television
operator, but more than half the market’s subscribers
are on satellite. The stations have had
their battles with Dish Network; WLBT was
off the air for Dish subscribers for nine days in
August (“No fun,” says Modisett), while WJTV
kicked off what it refers to as its “Dishruption”
on Oct. 1. Jimmy Cromwell, VP and general
manager at WJTV, says he has found a “silver
lining” in the continuing retrans shutdown.
“We’ve had a lot of interaction with viewers,
and heard just how much they support you and
your efforts as local broadcasters,” he says.

As a state capital, Jackson is relatively immune
to economic downturns; Kellogg calls it a
“no-boom, no-bust market.” College football is
a major topic of conversation this time of year.
This “charming” Southern city, in the words
of multiple general managers, with a favorable
climate and easy access to major metropolises,
has something for everyone. “It’s a unique
place with an enormous amount of diversity,”
Cromwell says. “I like what that represents.”