Local TV

Savoring Savannah

Historic coastal market is a hub of culture, fun and local TV news 2/07/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What's Working in Savannah

While many are sounding the obituaries for print media, newspaper partnerships are hot in Savannah. WJCL and WTGS will begin partnering with Morris Communications’ Savannah Morning News later this year. Print reporters will be on the air, and station personnel will appear in the paper, including the weather team offering forecasts on page 2. “I think you’re going to see more and more of these in the future,” says Scott McBride, WJCL-WTGS president/GM.

News leader WTOC used to publish specialty newspapers, dedicated to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and the military, among other local institutions, but now publishes most of them on WTOC.com.

WSAV’s “Our Hometown” initiative sees the station partner with community papers around the DMA, giving it wider reach in the 20-county market. “It’s a pretty broad area to cover,” says Deb Thompson, WSAV VP/GM. “We partner with every little publication we can.” —MM

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The festival season is about to kick off in Savannah, Ga., with
the Rattlesnake Roundup in March, the Glennville Sweet Onion
Festival in May and the Beaufort Water Festival in July. But all bow before Savannah’s famed St. Patrick’s Day
Parade. Local residents view the day both as a
religious observance and a giant party; March
17 starts with a church service, before the 187th
annual parade sees familial clans march down
Abercorn Street alongside Clydesdale
horses, floats and pipe and drum bands.
Estimated attendance is as much as half
a million; the merriment continues at the
pubs along River Street.

Organizers say it’s the largest St. Patrick’s
Day parade after New York’s. But
the city’s small size makes it feel downright
mammoth. “It’s the largest community
event Savannah puts on,” says Bill
Cathcart, VP/general manager at WTOC,
“and probably the largest event we do.”

The Raycom station starts the coverage
at 5 a.m., including the whole of
the Mass and the parade. Such dedication
to local events is what sets WTOC
apart. The CBS affiliate wins the ratings
and revenue competition in DMA No. 96 by
a country mile. In last November’s sweeps,
WTOC at least doubled all of its rivals in totalday
household ratings, primetime, morning,
early evening and late news. “For 30 years
straight, we’ve never lost at 6 and 11 p.m.,”
says Cathcart, who has been at the station for
25 of those years. “It’s never been close.”

That said, Media General’s WSAV is a game
competitor; the NBC affiliate scores secondplace
finishes in all the major races. The station
airs MyNetworkTV on its digital tier and reaches
the South Carolina portion of the DMA through
the bonus channel (Beaufort and resort locale
Hilton Head Island are part of the market). With
its “My LC 3” branding a nod to South Carolina’s
“Low Country,” the sister station launched a 7-8
p.m. news in March 2009, stoking interactivity
through Skype and social media.

Having determined there wasn’t an all-encompassing
online source of information for
the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, WSAV launched
savannahstpats.com a year ago. The station
also kicked off a 5:30 p.m. news last June. “It’s
off to a good start, with 1 [ratings] in the [25-
54] demo,” says Deb Thompson, WSAV VP/
GM. “That’s not bad for a diary market.”

Parkin Broadcasting owns Fox affiliate
WTGS, and New Vision has ABC outlet
WJCL; the stations are run jointly through a
local marketing agreement. Both will move
into Morris Communications’ Savannah
Morning News
building in July or August;
the newspaper and stations will work sideby-
side to enhance each other’s content offerings. “The plans are under way,”
says Scott McBride, who took over as WJCLWTGS
president/GM last year. “It’s a great way
to bring a lot more news to the market.”

Southern TV owns the CW outlet, WGSA.

TV business is up around 10% so
far this year, say the GMs. A diverse
economy has helped Savannah weather
the recent downturn: manufacturing,
ports, tourism and a huge military
presence are the four economic pillars.
Tourists are drawn to Savannah’s
rich history and abundant local flavor,
which was detailed in the book Midnight
in the Garden of Good and Evil
. All
five military branches are represented
here, adding an estimated $4.5-$5 billion
to local coffers each year.

“We do as much supportive coverage
as we can of the military,” says WTOC’s
Cathcart, including his own on-air editorials.
“Any time I can spotlight their
accomplishments, I will.”

WTOC added 4 p.m. news last fall. With its
long-tenured anchors and legacy status, the
station shows no signs of letting up. “Watching
our news,” says Cathcart, “is literally a
generational habit here.”

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

What's Working in Savannah

While many are sounding the obituaries for print media, newspaper partnerships are hot in Savannah. WJCL and WTGS will begin partnering with Morris Communications’ Savannah Morning News later this year. Print reporters will be on the air, and station personnel will appear in the paper, including the weather team offering forecasts on page 2. “I think you’re going to see more and more of these in the future,” says Scott McBride, WJCL-WTGS president/GM.

News leader WTOC used to publish specialty newspapers, dedicated to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and the military, among other local institutions, but now publishes most of them on WTOC.com.

WSAV’s “Our Hometown” initiative sees the station partner with community papers around the DMA, giving it wider reach in the 20-county market. “It’s a pretty broad area to cover,” says Deb Thompson, WSAV VP/GM. “We partner with every little publication we can.” —MM

 

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