Market Eye: Stretch Run in the Derby CityTornadoes give Kentucky stations’ newsrooms chances to shine 6/06/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Louisville, Ky., had its own frightful tornado visits in late May.
Electricity was out in some areas and homes were wrecked. But
it left, thankfully, much less damage compared to what other regions experienced. “Fortunately it wasn’t the
size and scope of the tornadoes in Alabama and
Missouri,” says Glenn Haygood, WLKY president
and general manager. “We’re just
thankful not to have to deal with what
those states had to deal with.”
Still, the severe weather gave the
Louisville news outlets a chance to
show their skills. It’s a good batch of
TV stations, with strong ownership
groups (including Belo, Hearst Television
and Raycom), and a savvy viewer
base. “There are four very good news
stations. You could pop any of us into
any market and we’d look like we belong,”
says Bill Lamb, president and
general manager at WDRB-WMYO.
“We represent Louisville well.”
If the May sweeps is any indication,
Hearst TV’s WLKY represents Louisville
best. The CBS affiliate had a smashing book,
winning all major news races, total day ratings
and primetime. Its 9.4 household rating/17
share in the vital 11 p.m. news battle topped
ABC affiliate WHAS’ 6.8/12. Haygood says
WLKY thrives with a consistent talent lineup
and an unfl inching commitment to being first,
and most comprehensive, in news.
The Louisville news race has been tight for
eons, but Haygood says May 2011 showed a
significant widening of the gap between No. 1
and the rest. “I don’t know a single [previous]
instance where one station here was first with
every single newscast,” he says.
Belo owns WHAS. Raycom owns NBC affiliate
WAVE, which carried the Kentucky Derby
in May. Ken Selvaggi took over WAVE’s GM job
in March. Block Communications has the Fox-
MyNetworkTV duopoly WDRB-WMYO. Fusion
Communications has CW outlet WBKI.
Insight is Louisville’s main cable operator.
The local economy is holding up well. Significant employers include UPS, Ford and GE, and
Zappos recently expanded its “fulfillment center”
here. There’s a new mayor in Greg Fischer. “He’s
a business guy,” says Lamb. “He brings some
business principles to the running of the city.”
Stations are being entrepreneurial as well. In
August, WAVE will bring back 6-8 a.m. weekend
news, which the station had scrapped a
few years ago. In the fall, WHAS will kick off
the 9 a.m. Great Day Live, and replace Oprah
Winfrey with a 4 p.m. news. Mark Pimentel,
WHAS president/GM, says the a.m. show will
have a branded integration component. “We
want it to be first and foremost good television,”
he says, “and a sales vehicle second.”
WLKY will debut Anderson Cooper at 9 a.m.
this fall. WDRB in January launched a news at
6:30 p.m., when rivals are airing network newscasts.
“It’s been up against Egypt, the earthquake
in Japan, Libya, the royal wedding
and Bin Laden—that’s all happened
continuously since we launched,”
says Lamb. “We’re hoping for a quiet
world for a couple months.”
Stations are bullish on their digital
properties. WLKY will add Me-
TV to its digital tier in September.
WAVE plans to double its stable of
15 Websites next year and add the
African-American channel Bounce
TV. “We’re a big believer in building
those channels,” says Selvaggi.
WHAS shows Kentucky high
school and small-college sports on a
channel called Wazoo. “It’s unique—
all local sports, all the time,” says Pimentel.
WLKY’s considerable May momentum continues
into June, as the station is awarded a Service
to America award in Washington June 6.
The station is being feted for its work in helping
special needs children find adoptive homes.
Haygood says WLKY’s in-depth news is
a smart fit in DMA No. 50. “Louisville has
savvy consumers,” he says. “They respond to
E-mail comments to
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz