Local TV

Market Eye: Going 'Rouge'

People, dollars, robust culture are captial gains in Baton Rouge 5/28/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Baton Rouge

If it’s a Friday in May, you will find the WAFB morning team on the road—checking out a different corner of the Baton Rouge market for its “Road Trip” franchise. This month has featured visits to Plaquemines, New Roads, Woodville (Miss.) and Amite. Road Trip features a 5-7 a.m. newscast airing from the sub-market, along with pre-produced segments about the locale.

The visits turn into local events, with live music, cooking and lots of local faces. “It always amazes me how many people show up for a 5 a.m. broadcast,” says Sandy Breland, WAFB VP and general manager. “It speaks to the power of local broadcasting, and to the connection people have with our anchor team.”

It’s the third year for the Raycom station’s Road Trip segments, and Breland suggests the differentiating franchise will stick around. “It’s been a ratings success,” she says, “and it develops relationships with our audience. We’ve gotten a lot of strong feedback.” —MM

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About 90 minutes from New Orleans, Baton Rouge offers
many similar cultural attractions: sports teams with rabid local
followings, a robust restaurant scene, lots of live music and a
town rich with character, and characters. While Baton Rouge
doesn't get the level of tourism the Big Easy does, being the
state capital brings some insulation from economic downturns.

Add in a lively chemical processing/refinery
landscape and colleges including LSU and Southern
University, and Baton Rouge is doing just
fine. While it is No. 94 among Nielsen DMAs,
Baton Rouge ranks an impressive 71st in terms
of revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey. "We tend
to keep pace above the national average," says
Rocky Daboval, general manager at WBRZ. "Because
of the [economic] diversity in the market,
we weather the bad times better than markets
with one source of employment."

Baton Rouge is largely a two-horse race in
terms of news, with Raycom's WAFB winning
the ratings competitions. The CBS affiliate
won total-day ratings easily in the February
sweeps and took primetime, morning, early
evening and late news honors too, the latter
with a whopping 17 household rating/35.9
share, ahead of WBRZ's 7.3/15.5.

WAFB and WBRZ, an ABC affiliate owned
by the Manship family, offer stark contrasts.
While WBRZ benefits from local ownership
(which also holds The Advocate daily newspaper),
the Manships own just two full-power
TV stations. Raycom, on the other hand,
owns or provides services to 48 stations and
flexes its muscle with homegrown shows like
RightThisMinute (a partnership with two other
station groups) and America Now.

Daboval notes the Manships' considerable
commitment to the Baton Rouge community
but concedes the lack of scale can be a challenge.
"You don't have the resources of other groups,"
he says. "In terms of programming, it's more difficult to compete against a multi-station group."

WBRZ does enjoy some syndication blue
chips, such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!,
while Katie Couric's new talk show, Katie, will
come on board this fall.

WAFB's first-rate news operation befits a general
manager with big-time news chops. Before
taking over WAFB, Sandy Breland held the news
director job at WWL New Orleans for 11 years
and at KTVK Phoenix for a few more. "The keys
are consistency and commitment to quality in
our local news," Breland says. "When you're a
strong No. 1, you have a target on your back.
You have to be consistent every day."

WAFB was the first, and remains the only, station
in the market to go live with news at 4:30
a.m. WAFB spends each Friday during the May
sweeps schlepping around the market for its
"Road Trip" franchise. Raycom also
owns MyNetworkTV affiliate WBXH, which airs
primetime 7-9 p.m. and local news at 9.

White Knight owns NBC affiliate WVLA,
which has an operating agreement with
ComCorp of America's Fox affiliate, WGMB.
ComCorp also has CW station WBRL. The
main subscription TV operator is Cox.

Baton Rouge stations are deploying all available
platforms to extend their reach. WBRZ
has news on its dot-two channel and weather
on its dot-three. Manship, whose other station
is KRGV Weslaco (Texas), has low-power independent
WBTR, which features Baton Rouge
Today
in prime. "That gives us an opportunity
to provide additional local programming,"
says Daboval.

Raycom owns Cable Channel 9, which repeats WAFB newscasts
(Breland says a number of local restaurants keep the cable channel on for
customers), and the station is bullish on its news and weather mobile apps. The
mobile site is getting 5½-6 million page views a month, says Breland. "For
a market this size, we feel pretty good about those numbers," she says.

Court shows dominate daytime on WGMB, giving way to double-runs of Two and a
Half Men
and The Big Bang Theory. WVLA goes for populist branding in
its "We Tell Your Stories Every Day" tagline.

While political spending has not amounted to much so far this year, the Baton
Rouge political arena is red meat for the newsrooms. "It's a great town
for journalists," says Breland. "Everybody knows how interesting
Louisiana politics can be."

It's stormy season now in Baton Rouge, and the market was significantly
affected by Katrina seven years ago. The capital received scores of residents,
both temporary and permanent; it was where many of the refugees bought
replacement furniture, clothes and cars. Breland was forced out of her home
during the hurricane, commuting from Baton Rouge for 10 months during the
rebuild. Daboval, who has been at WBRZ for 32 years, was happy to welcome the
displaced WGNO New Orleans staffers to the station when Tribune's NOLA duopoly,
WGNO/WNOL, was inoperable.

Daboval says some 40 WGNO staffers stayed at WBRZ while broadcasting from Baton
Rouge. "We had stories to tell and a responsibility to the
community," he recalls. "It's what stations are supposed to do. It's
something I'm proud to be associated with."

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

What’s Working in Baton Rouge

If it’s a Friday in May, you will find the WAFB morning team on the road—checking out a different corner of the Baton Rouge market for its “Road Trip” franchise. This month has featured visits to Plaquemines, New Roads, Woodville (Miss.) and Amite. Road Trip features a 5-7 a.m. newscast airing from the sub-market, along with pre-produced segments about the locale.

The visits turn into local events, with live music, cooking and lots of local faces. “It always amazes me how many people show up for a 5 a.m. broadcast,” says Sandy Breland, WAFB VP and general manager. “It speaks to the power of local broadcasting, and to the connection people have with our anchor team.”

It’s the third year for the Raycom station’s Road Trip segments, and Breland suggests the differentiating franchise will stick around. “It’s been a ratings success,” she says, “and it develops relationships with our audience. We’ve gotten a lot of strong feedback.” —MM

 

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