Market Eye: Ruling Hampton Roads

WAVY tops Virginia's biggest DMA

The Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News market, collectively known as Hampton Roads, is comprised of distinctive cities, each with a unique history. It also has an extraordinarily large military population, with hubs such as Langley Air Force Base and Naval Station Norfolk. If something affects the military, it affects local television in the No. 43 DMA. Longer troop deployments, for one, have resulted in some families leaving southeastern Virginia, albeit temporarily, for the support system provided by their extended families.

Significant government employment tends to stabilize the local economy, but it's been a rough patch for Hampton Roads nevertheless. “It's pretty much the way it is everywhere,” says WTVZ General Manager Bill Scaffide. “It's been difficult.”

News brands pushing consumer advocacy seem to play well here. LIN's WAVY, with its “10 on Your Side” branding and the market's lone helicopter to cover the vast DMA, has ruled ratings for a long time. The NBC affiliate won total day ratings in May, along with morning, evening and late news—the latter with an 8.2 household rating/14.4 share. “WAVY has a great history of delivering local content to viewers,” says President/General Manager Doug Davis. “That marches on.”

But there's good competition. Local TV's CBS affiliate WTKR barely edged out Belo ABC outlet WVEC for the primetime win, and late news is a robust race, too. With a new news director in Tina Luque-Blacklocke and a “Taking Action, Getting Results” tagline, WTKR was runner-up at 11 with a 7.5/12.7. “That would've been unheard of a year ago,” says President/General Manager Jeff Hoffman.

The competition keeps the stations trying new things. LIN's Fox outlet WVBT launched a 7 a.m. news in February and debuts Wendy Williams July 13. WTKR is doing full local HD. WTVZ's Scaffide says the Sinclair-owned MyNetworkTV outlet gets one of the best wrestling ratings in the nation, and debuts The Office come fall. The CBS-owned CW affiliate WGNT also posts some of The CW's highest prime ratings nationwide, according to VP/General Manager Steve Soldinger, and inserts local weather and military news into The Daily Buzz. “It's not just the Big Three or Big Four in the market,” he says. “We're a part of it.”

WVEC, for its part, is just beginning a “bigger, bolder” marketing push in advance of the fall, including new branding, according to President/General Manager Jim Berman. “We have a real strong marketing emphasis,” Berman says. “We have to establish our own destiny.”

The military's presence makes for a relatively transient market, and WAVY's rivals say that spells opportunity. “With high turnover,” Hoffman says, “you always have a chance to impress a fresh set of eyes.”

E-mail comments to
michael.malone@reedbusiness.com