Local TV

Market Eye: Midwestern 'Super' Star

Indianapolis stations showed their stuff on the Big Game's big stage 3/26/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Indianapolis

“W82TXT” may look like a license plate sequence, or even a cold war code. In fact, it’s a campaign from WISH to encourage people to avoid text messaging while driving. (It’s pronounced “Wait to Text.”)

WISH, which has tackled the topic on-air for years, recently began distributing 75,000 thumb bands at area schools that remind teens of the perils of mixing the activities. “It turned out to be such a great campaign that many LIN stations have picked it up,” including WAVY Norfolk (Va.) and WTNH Hartford-New Haven (Conn.), according to Jeff White, vice president and general manager of WISH.

WISH has gotten more than 125,000 people to pledge to avoid texting while driving, with an assist from some big-name syndicated partners including Anderson Cooper and Rachael Ray, who spoke out on the effort’s behalf. “We went to the syndicators and said, ‘Join us,’” White says. “And they all did.” —MM

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It has been an eventful 2012 for Indianapolis, to say the
least. First there was the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium
on Feb. 5. Less than a month later, southern Indiana was
struck by fatal tornadoes. A few days after that, favorite
adopted son Peyton Manning was released by the Colts. Coordinating tornado coverage
and fund-raisers, and cranking out
Manning specials, had the DMA
No. 26 newsrooms hopping the
first week of March. “That week,
we were pretty stretched,” says John
Cardenas, vice president and general
manager at WTHR Indianapolis.
“But everyone was at the ready.”

WTHR was born ready. Dispatch
Broadcast’s NBC affiliate, the market
leader, aired the Super Bowl and
has enjoyed what Cardenas calls a
“halo effect” ever since. “A week
after, ratings, particularly for the
morning show, were through the roof,” he says.
“We’ve maintained a lot of that since Feb. 5.”

Cardenas, who took over at WTHR after the
death of Jim Tellus in 2010, was singled out by
B&C as General Manager of the Year in 2011.

LIN’s CBS affiliate, WISH, took primetime
in the February sweeps, but WTHR won all
the other major races, including late news
with an 8.3 household rating/16 share—
ahead of WISH’s 6.4/12.

One particularly hot contest is mornings, as
emerging Fox affiliate WXIN pulled ahead of
WISH in February. Tribune’s WXIN is live 4-10
a.m., giving viewers a big target for sampling.
Larry Delia, VP/GM, credits the talent for retaining
viewers. “The product oozes personality—it’s
how we differentiate ourselves,” he says. “The talent
has fabulous chemistry. You can’t buy that.”

The dominant subscription TV operator is
Comcast, and AT&T’s U-verse is a competitor.

Indianapolis features a pair of duopolies: LIN
also owns MyNetworkTV affiliate WNDY and
Tribune holds CW affiliate WTTV. Other players
include Scripps-owned ABC outlet WRTV
and LeSea’s religious independent WHMB,
which features high school and college sports
and syndicated programs that are dated enough
to be family-friendly, and inexpensive. “Most of
our shows have a lot of age on them,” concedes
Keith Passon, WHMB general manager.

WTHR has a knack for getting viewers to turn
to channel 13, skills it has had to develop due
to NBC’s weak primetime and the loss of Oprah
Winfrey
at 4 p.m. “You have to market your
product that way,” says Cardenas. “[Viewers]
have a choice. Who offers you the most comprehensive,
appealing and distinct coverage? I think
the station has been able to carve out that niche.”

WTHR’s rivals continue to fi ght. Delia says
WXIN went from last among the Big Four stations
in weekly news hours to first in about 18
months; it now airs 55. WISH has Anderson at 4
p.m. and a new talk show from former anchor
Mike Ahern on WNDY Thursday nights.

WISH continues to push its investigative
brand. The station produced a legislationchanging
series on youths snorting easily obtainable
bath salts, to disastrous effect. “Those
are examples of the good things we can do,”
says Jeff White, WISH VP/general manager.

Speaking of good things the Indy stations
do, they raised over a million dollars for Hoosiers
affected by the tornadoes—no great surprise
to general managers here. “The market is
filled with really good people who respond to
helping their neighbors,” says Delia.

The Super Bowl gave lots of non-residents a
chance to sample Indy’s goodwill, hospitality
and local entertainment. “I don’t think anybody
walked away from the Super Bowl and
said Indianapolis did not do a great job,” says
White. “We have the Indy 500 and we’ve had
the NCAA [basketball] Final Four, but this
took it to a whole new level.”

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

What’s Working in Indianapolis

“W82TXT” may look like a license plate sequence, or even a cold war code. In fact, it’s a campaign from WISH to encourage people to avoid text messaging while driving. (It’s pronounced “Wait to Text.”)

WISH, which has tackled the topic on-air for years, recently began distributing 75,000 thumb bands at area schools that remind teens of the perils of mixing the activities. “It turned out to be such a great campaign that many LIN stations have picked it up,” including WAVY Norfolk (Va.) and WTNH Hartford-New Haven (Conn.), according to Jeff White, vice president and general manager of WISH.

WISH has gotten more than 125,000 people to pledge to avoid texting while driving, with an assist from some big-name syndicated partners including Anderson Cooper and Rachael Ray, who spoke out on the effort’s behalf. “We went to the syndicators and said, ‘Join us,’” White says. “And they all did.” —MM

 

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