Market Eye: Determined to RecoverMayor Bing shares his reboot plan for Detroit on local stations 12/12/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing took to the local airwaves in mid-November, detailing for Detroiters just how dire the city's economic
situation is. While Detroit's fiscal ills are news to no one, Bing's TV address nonetheless underscored
how entrenched the city is in crisis.
Yet there are reasons to be optimistic.
The automotive giants that
give Motown its identity are on solid
footing, following the restructuring of General
Motors and Chrysler. Unlike his predecessor,
Bing has avoided embarrassing
personal controversies. Local teams are giving
residents reason to celebrate; the Tigers
nearly made the World Series, while the
Detroit Lions and their winning record are
one of the big surprises of the NFL season.
The general managers in DMA No.
11 remain tireless cheerleaders for Detroit. "There's a good feeling right now
in the city," says Ed Fernandez, VP/GM
at WXYZ."We know we're not totally out
of the woods, but there's tremendous momentum
in the community."
Detroit features one of the great local news
contests, between ABC affiliate WXYZ, NBC outlet
WDIV and Fox-owned WJBK. The market
has a range of ownership models, including network
parents, outfits known for extraordinary
journalism and a locally based independent. The
competition brings out the best in all. "It's a very
tight TV market," says Marla Drutz, VP and general
manager at WDIV. "On any given day, any
given station can be in the driver's seat."
Scripps' WXYZ won total-day household ratings
and primetime in the November sweeps.
Post-Newsweek's WDIV won early evenings and
late news -- the latter with an 8.9 rating/16 share
(ahead of WXYZ's 8.1/14) and won 11 p.m.
demo ratings too. WJBK has news 10-11:30
p.m. and is strong in adults 25-54; the Fox affiliate also won morning news.
WXYZ won the 2010 revenue contest, according
to BIA/Kelsey, its $78.5 million ahead
of WDIV's and WJBK's $69 million.
CBS owns CBS outlet WWJ -- whose news
output includes a 2½-minute "First Forecast"at
11 p.m. -- and CW affiliate WKBD. Granite owns
MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYD, which features
local reporters but an anchor crew based at a sister
station in Fort Wayne, Ind. Adell Broadcasting
has independent WADL, which has broadened
its programming lineup in a strategy shift.
Comcast is Detroit's main subscription television
Extensive community service is part of local
stations' DNA, whether it's food banks or job fairs
or other outreach. Last January, WXYZ kicked
off "Detroit 2020,"which Fernandez calls "a
decade-long community initiative"that addresses
the market's most pressing issues in the
form of news segments and specials and town
hall meetings around the region. It aims to inspire
people to pitch in on Detroit's recovery.
"The community has really rallied around
it,"says Fernandez. "It's one of the most gratifying
things I've been associated with."
WJBK takes part in an Adopt-a-School
program, mentoring students at Communication
& Media Arts High. "We taught a class
and took the kids through the curriculum,"says Jeff Murri, station VP/general manager.
"You never know how many young journalists
might come from this effort."
Stations put extra emphasis on the dayparts
they have set out to own. NBC's primetime
woes mean razor-sharp promotions crafted
to drive tune-in on WDIV at 11. Drutz says the
station offers "hold for sweeps-type pieces year-round.
"I'm a big believer that you have to give
people an important reason to watch,"she says.
WJBK has added six hours of news a week, shifting Wendy Williams to make for a gargantuan
4:30-noon a.m. block (see sidebar),
and starting weekend morning news a half-hour earlier. Murri suspects the
station's 63Â½ hours of local news per week might be tops in the U.S. "The sheer
volume of news we have gives us a significant advantage in serving our
community," he believes.
WWJ-WKBD debuts Steve
Harvey and Modern Family next
fall, and flips the switch on full HD early in 2012. It has a catchy tagline
leading into First Forecast in "Two and a
Half Men starts in 2 ½ minutes." "That's been a real positive in terms of
hanging on to people coming out of primetime," says Trey Fabacher, vice
president and general manager.
The biggest shift belongs to WADL, which no longer
promotes itself as "Detroit's Urban Station." WADL decreased its religious paid
programming load, and has a wider range of syndicated shows, as varied as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Hogan's Heroes. "There's still The Jeffersons and Good Times, but we aim to better serve the entire market where we
are licensed," says Steve Antoniotti, president and general manager.
WMYD, for its part, is seeing a spike in trade
school advertising, as much of the population seeks to redefine itself. "A lot
of people are going back to school and retraining in different areas," says
David Bangura, president and general manager.
The city is aiming to redefine itself too. Through
it all, general managers say Detroit remains a giant TV-watching town. "The
market's got an insatiable appetite for news," says Drutz, "and a lot of news