Local TV

Tri-ing Harder in N.C.

DMA reinvents self as transport hub 2/21/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Known as the Triad, the No. 46 DMA covers three cities (Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, N.C.), and features three strong stations vying for supremacy. Hearst-Argyle's NBC affiliate WXII holds the ratings crown, but not by much. There's no closer race than late news: WXII was tops at 11 in November with an 8.4 household rating/15 share, while Local TV's Fox affiliate WGHP put up virtually the same numbers at 10. Gannett's CBS outlet WFMY is right in the hunt with a robust 8.1/15.

The local economy is sluggish. Unemployment is up, but the region never saw a big housing bubble and isn't feeling the resultant hangover. Long a manufacturing base, the area has reinvented itself as a transportation hub, with a growing medical community. “We've undertaken an evolution to more of a service-based economy,” says WGHP President/General Manager Karen Adams. “The market has potential to start steady growth again.”

Piedmont Triad Airport is building a third runway, and Fed Ex Express is establishing its Mid-Atlantic hub there. Manufacturing still remains vital; Honda is building airplanes—yes, airplanes—in the DMA, and computer manufacturers Dell and Lenovo are ramping up local operations, too.

A few stations have changed hands of late. A 33-year veteran of WGHP, Adams says she met her ninth owner when Local TV closed on its mega-deal with Fox in July. CW outlet WCWG also got a new owner when New World TV grabbed the Pappas stations in a bankruptcy court sale recently; General Sales Manager Lynn Bailie says new projects are in the works. Other players include the Sinclair duopoly WXLV (ABC) and WMYV (MyNetwork TV).

Evening news is almost as close as late: WXII won with a 9.8/17 at 6, while WFMY posted an 8.0/14 and WGHP a 6.9/12. WXII takes the morning title. President/General Manager Hank Price has steered WXII's emergence by concentrating on a handful of key points: Own the big story, own weather, keep things fun. The streamlined game plan seems to be working. “We don't have consumer reporters, we don't have health reporters,” Price says. “We do a few things to the best of our ability.”

WFMY won primetime in November, and recently moved Ellen from 10 a.m. to face Oprah at 4. President/General Manager Deborah Hooper says it's an effort to counterprogram heavier fare. “With all the doom and gloom talk,” Hooper says, “I think people just want to be entertained.”

Station execs say Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem has a lot to offer, whether it's the weather, a business-friendly environment or simply nice neighbors. “People really want to relocate here,” Adams says. “The market is very friendly, both to businesses and people.”

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