Market Eye: Good Night, Irene

Eastern North Carolina has been spared from hurricanes so far, but in Greenville the TV newsrooms are plenty busy

Why This Matters

What’s Working In Greenville-New Bern-Washington

The TV ratings race has tightened up in coastal North Carolina, but WITN enjoys a wide margin of victory is on pace to do 100 million page views in 2012, according to Quantcast; Chris Mossman, WITN vice president and general manager, says that is tops among all media sites in the market. “We’re one of the smallest markets to get [100 million] page views,” Mossman adds.

Notably, around 55% of the views come from mobile devices. The digital tipping point, Mossman says, happened around five months ago.

The key to strong Web numbers, he says, is constantly breaking news online; 95 to 98 of the top 100 WITN stories in September saw first light on the Web. The next mission: Fully monetizing digital. “Our story is the same as everybody else’s,” says Mossman. “We do very well [on the Web], but we’re not doing enough.” —MM

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The knocking you hear coming out of Greenville-New Bern-Washington,
N.C., is the sound of people touching wood as a blessedly uneventful hurricane
season progresses. The market bore the brunt of Hurricane Irene
in summer 2011, and some areas of the region are still cleaning up. “Parts
of our viewing area are still very much in recovery mode,” says Lyle
Schulze, vice president and general manager of WCTI. “[Irene] parked
itself here for 12 hours when it made landfall. We just got hammered.”

While it was a wet summer, DMA No. 100 thus far
has been free of extreme weather. “Knock on wood,”
say both Schulze and Chris Mossman, WITN VP/GM.

Irene did spark a construction boom, and compelled
people to buy new vehicles, furniture and even homes
after the storm’s destruction. Core business was up
around 15% in the first half of 2012. “It ended up being
pretty good for the economy,” says Mossman.

Speaking of new homes, WITN is having one built.
The station is shifting its address from tiny Chocowinity
to Greenville—the largest city in the DMA. Mossman is
aiming to be in the new digs in the first quarter, when
the NBC affiliate plans to launching local HD. A webcam shows the building’s
real-time progress.

For its part, Bonten Media’s ABC affiliate WCTI,
along with Fox-aligned WFXI, which WCTI manages
through a shared services agreement, have been HD for
some time. “We’ve been the leader on that initiative for
two years now,” says Schulze. “A lot of stations at this
level are still waiting for that to happen.”

WITN aims to extend its market leadership with the
HD adoption. The station won total day household ratings,
along with morning and early evening news, in the
May sweeps. WNCT, a CBS affiliate owned by Media
General, won primetime easily. WCTI took late news,
its 5 household rating/16 share ahead of WITN’s 4.8/16.
WNCT grabbed the 25-54 ratings crown at 11 p.m.

Gray Television-owned WITN thrives on the extended
tenure of its talent, including a news director with a
dozen years at the station and anchors averaging about
a decade. “The other guys in the market are not in the
same situation,” Mossman says.

Mossman earned B&C’s General Manager of the Year
honors in 2011 for his stewardship during Irene, which
included 63½ straight hours of live coverage. The station
airs a MyNetworkTV/Me-TV hybrid on its dot-two,
but will give both their own slot when the new facility is
open. Esteem Broadcasting owns WFXI and a repeater,
WYDO. Last month, Scott Nichols was named news
director for Bonten’s TV properties in the market.

The primary subscription TV operators are Time Warner
Cable and Suddenlink. The market slipped a slot to
No. 100 in the most recent Nielsen DMA rankings. Its
revenue rank, according to BIA/Kelsey, is No. 107.

A batch of military bases, including the Marine Corps
giant Camp Lejeune, helps steady the economy. “When
the troop deployments come home, there’s a lot of
spending that goes on in that household,” says Schulze.

The stations are increasing their offerings to get an advantage.
WITN has syndication rookies Steve Harvey and
Ricki Lake and has expanded its sports programming,
including Carolina Panthers preseason games. WCTI is
marking one year with its 5:30 p.m. newscast. Schulze
plans to increase the news WCTI produces for the Fox
affiliate beyond 10 p.m. next year. WCTI-WFXI offer Live
Well, This TV and Bounce TV on their multicast tiers.

North Carolina is a jump ball in the presidential election,
spelling major spending this fall. “No hurricanes,
and some political [revenue] coming our way,” says
Mossman. “We’ve got nothing to complain about.”

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