Market Eye: Nobody Beats the WISThe wheel deal in South Carolina’s capital 12/05/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Columbia, S.C., is increasingly where the metaphorical, and literal,
rubber meets the road. Tire conglomerate Michelin, its headquarters
two hours to the northwest in Greenville, has a manufacturing facility
in the market. Tire and rubber giants Bridgestone and Continental
Tire are setting up operations in the state’s Midlands region as well.
“We’re becoming the tire capital of
the country,” says Rich O’Dell, WLTX
president and general manager.
Columbia, the capital of South Carolina,
is growing. The market crept up to
No. 77 in the most recent Nielsen DMA
rankings, from its previous perch at 78.
O’Dell says Columbia was No. 86 when
he arrived in 1999.
Raycom’s WIS is growing too. The
NBC affiliate won total day household
ratings in last May’s sweeps, along with
morning, early evening and late news.
WIS posted a mammoth 45.9 household
share at 6 a.m. Late news is closer:
WIS showed a 9.4 rating/28.9 share at
11, ahead of WLTX’s 5.8/17.9. Gannett’s
WLTX, a CBS affiliate, won primetime—
just ahead of ABC affiliate WOLO.
Winning never gets old for WIS. “I’m
happy to see continued growth,” says
Donita Todd, vice president and general
manager. “It’s nice to win, but it’s also
nice to see year-over-year growth.”
WIS’s $21.9 million in 2010 revenue topped WLTX’s
$16 million, according to BIA/Kelsey.
Bahakel Communications holds WOLO, Barrington
Broadcasting has Fox outlet WACH, Roberts Broadcasting
owns CW affiliate WZRB and WBHQ Columbia
owns MyNetworkTV station WKTC. WACH is currently
without a general manager and did not return
calls for comment. Roberts Broadcasting filed for bankruptcy
in October; calls to its St. Louis headquarters
were not returned.
Time Warner Cable is the primary subscription television
operator in the market; it is seeing real competition
from AT&T’s u-Verse service.
WIS thrives on exhaustive viewer research, along with
personality-driven news talent and a legacy reputation.
“A lot is expected of us—more than just reporting the
facts,” Todd says. “It’s how it impacts you and your life.”
Rashida Jones, former Weather Channel live programming
director (no relation to the Parks & Recreation cast
member of the same name), started as WIS news director
in August. WIS added a 4:30 a.m. news last fall (it’s the
only Columbia station live in that slot, says Todd) and
features Bounce TV and This TV on its subchannels.
WLTX, with its “On Your Side” branding, is hardly
sitting idle; the station gained three percentage points
in revenue last year, reports BIA/Kelsey. WLTX has introduced
Gannett’s daily deals platform, Deal Chicken,
and debuted local HD in January. The newsroom is
pushing an aggressive social media strategy, which has
sparked 55,000 downloads of the WLTX weather app.
“All news is broken on Twitter,” O’Dell says. “It’s an
exciting time to be in the business.”
The station is running its annual holiday-season Stuff-a-
Bus campaign, which sees city buses parked in Wal-Mart
lots jammed full of donated food and gifts for the needy.
WOLO added 6 a.m. and noon news in July, a decade
after scrapping the programs. “Rather than just
having 6 and 11 [p.m.] news, we want to be more of a
full-service news station,” says Chris Bailey, VP/general
manager of WOLO.
WACH keeps viewers, and users, connected with an
array of Webcams around the market, such as at the
State House and in the WACH studio. WKTC sometimes
airs college football and basketball when there’s a
scheduling conflict on WOLO.
Columbia stations have shaken up their
syndication offerings. WLTX has Dr. Oz at
4 p.m. WOLO grabbed Dr. Phil from WIS.
WIS has a 4 p.m. newscast in place of the
departed Oprah Winfrey, with Raycom’s
America Now leading in.
Unemployment is persistent, but the Columbia
market is holding up well thanks to
a stable and diverse base of employers. Columbia
prides itself on what’s known locally
as the three-legged stool, involving the military,
state government and the University of
South Carolina. Military bases include Fort
Jackson and Shaw Air Force Base. The university,
which has more than 44,000 students,
repeated as NCAA Division I baseball
champions in June. Amazon.com is moving
into the market and will employ some
2,000 people at a new distribution center.
“There’s really been a lot of good news in
terms of jobs being added to the market,”
says WOLO’s Bailey. “That means active,
happy consumers, and it really helps the
South Carolina will hold its presidential primary on
Jan. 21, following the bellwether polls in Iowa and New
Hampshire. Going third gives the Republican-leaning
state considerable significance for the political aspirants.
“A lot of politicians—guys and ladies—have been
coming through the area,” says O’Dell.
BIA/Kelsey has projected 1.3% population growth for
Columbia from 2010-2015. Local sation general managers
offer a host of reasons why it’s expanding the way it
is. Upon her arrival in 2008, Todd was enthused to see
the abundance of cultural offerings, including ballet and
a symphony. “Coming from larger markets, I was pleasantly
surprised to see the amount of arts this town supports,”
she says. “Plus, it’s a wonderful outdoors area.”