Local TV

Market Eye: King of the 'The Hill'

While one blue-chip station is for sale, the market leader is only getting stronger 6/10/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Washington, D.C.

Seeking to own weather, WRC recently made two key additions to its meteorological department: Amelia Segal, who became Storm Team4’s fifth meteorologist in March, and the “mack daddy” weather vehicle—in the words of Jackie Bradford, president and general manager—that is better known as the Storm Team 4X4. The truck hit the road in early June, and allows reporters to transmit live footage from the heart of a storm. “It’s one of the first of its kind,” Bradford says. “We’ve really invested in weather.”

Bob Ryan was a weather icon at WRC for three decades before shifting to WJLA in 2010. He made a final WRC appearance on May 24: “Delightful days coming up,” Ryan said upon signing off.

That’s how Bradford views it for reinvigorated WRC. “We win the severe weather days,” she says. “That’s when you really see the gap.” —MM

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Coalitions on Capitol Hill are famously hard to come by, but partnerships
are flourishing in Washington, D.C., television. All the major stations have
a significant ally: WRC shares space with NBC News, Gannett’s WUSA has sister USA Today, Fox’s WTTG features the only
D.C. duopoly and WJLA shares its newsroom with The
Politico as well as cable’s NewsChannel 8. Bill Lord,
WJLA VP and general manager, mentions “an endless
supply of pundits,” thanks to the Politico posse. “You
can’t have too many smart people walking around the
newsroom,” Lord says.

All eyes are on WJLA, as parent Allbritton has put its
stations on the block, separate from Politico. Top-flight
stations in Top 10 markets don’t go on sale very often.
“It’s got everyone interested,” says Ashley Messina,
WDCW VP and general manager. “It’s a strong station
with a lot of potential.”

WJLA gave everything it had to win 11 p.m. news in
the May sweeps and can boast that it did so. The ABC affiliate
“eked out” the Monday-Friday late news race, says
Lord, while NBC-owned WRC won the Monday-Sunday
contest at 11—along with the rest of the news battles.
“Any time you knock off WRC, you feel like you’ve done
a good job,” says Lord, who credits good content, savvy
promotion and a strong primetime lead-in.

Yet WRC remains the station to beat. While other
NBC-owned stations suffered mightily when seemingly
indifferent GE was at the helm, WRC and its stellar news
reputation avoided a slide. Comcast’s acquisition of NBC
has brought in considerable, and tangible, local resources;
one competitor called it a “deluge.” WRC can thank Comcast
for its investigative team, new bureaus in northern
Virginia and Maryland’s Prince George’s County, and a
state-of-the-art storm-chasing vehicle.

Add a robust performance from the syndicated Steve
Harvey
(“He brings a different audience to WRC,” says
Jackie Bradford, president/GM) and Ellen (“On fire,” Bradford
notes) in daytime, and WRC is hotter than the Beltway
in August. “Comcast believes in broadcasting and investing
in good programming,” says Bradford. Adds Matt Glassman,
WRC assistant news director: “We’ve made great investments,
and it’s really paying off in the numbers.”

WRC in May put up a 4.5 household rating/10
share at 11 p.m. (Monday-Sunday), ahead of WJLA’s
4/9, along with a leading 2/7 in adults 25-54; Bradford
says WRC grew its share in the demo 87% coming out
of primetime. WJLA and WUSA were deadlocked in
prime with a 4.5/8, ahead of WRC’s 3.8/7.

Gannett owns CBS affiilate WUSA. Fox owns WTTG,
which cranks out 48.5 hours of news per week, and
MyNetworkTV station WDCA. Tribune has CW affiliate
WDCW; Messina, promoted to GM in late 2010, says
Tribune’s exit from bankruptcy was “great for morale.”

The market has a second NBC affiliate in Nexstar’s
WHAG, licensed to Hagerstown, Md. The Spanishlanguage
options include Univision’s WFDC and Telemundo
affiliate WZDC. Allbritton’s NewsChannel 8
and Telemundo have a unique venture—a joint program
that airs both in Spanish and English. Called
Agenda, the current events program debuted June 6.
“It’s an interesting experiment,” says Lord. “It’s a great
way to serve a growing community.”

DMA No. 8’s subscription TV operators include Comcast
and FiOS, along with Cox in the Virginia suburbs.

WRC took in an estimated $128 million in revenue
last year, according to BIA/Kelsey, ahead of WJLA and
WTTG, both at an estimated $105 million.

Multicast offerings give D.C. viewers a plethora of
over-the-air choices. WDCW has oldies on This TV and
Antenna TV, WJLA has Live Well Network and Me-TV,
WUSA airs Bounce TV, while WRC features Cozi TV,
along with homegrown programs focusing on news and
lifestyle. “There are some local angles on that channel
that make it unique in a crowded field,” says Glassman.

The Washington economy is going gangbusters. It is the
U.S.’ No. 5 market in TV revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey,
ahead of larger markets Philadelphia and Boston. Political
spending was, not surprisingly, off the charts last year,
especially since Virginia was a battleground state. “We got
off to a great start, and it’s largely continued,” says Lord.

Rookies for this fall include Bethenny and TMZ Live on
the Fox stations and Arsenio Hall on WDCW. Local weather
fixture Bob Ryan got a big sendoff from WJLA when he
retired last month. Sue Palka has been WTTG’s chief meteorologist
for more than 25 years, and Scott Smith recently
joined the team as sports director. WRC’s sports department
is enriched by the local Comcast SportsNet outfit.

Speaking of teamwork, Washington’s sports franchises,
which for years had similar approval ratings to those
of Congress, have people buzzing about highlightreel
athletes such as Bryce Harper of the Nationals and
Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. The local teams are
something both sides of the aisle can agree on—a rarity
in Washington. “It’s exciting for the market to have
people coming out to games,” says Messina, “and feeling
good about the teams.”

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

What’s Working in Washington, D.C.

Seeking to own weather, WRC recently made two key additions to its meteorological department: Amelia Segal, who became Storm Team4’s fifth meteorologist in March, and the “mack daddy” weather vehicle—in the words of Jackie Bradford, president and general manager—that is better known as the Storm Team 4X4. The truck hit the road in early June, and allows reporters to transmit live footage from the heart of a storm. “It’s one of the first of its kind,” Bradford says. “We’ve really invested in weather.”

Bob Ryan was a weather icon at WRC for three decades before shifting to WJLA in 2010. He made a final WRC appearance on May 24: “Delightful days coming up,” Ryan said upon signing off.

That’s how Bradford views it for reinvigorated WRC. “We win the severe weather days,” she says. “That’s when you really see the gap.” —MM

 

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