Old School Strategies Open New MarketsLilly brothers apply multiplatform plays in Pa. and Caribbean 12/20/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Operating three broadcast-network
affiliates, a network feed to
Puerto Rico and a profitable 24-hour
Caribbean channel all from one facility
would comprise a major commitment
to multi-platform television by a large,
well-capitalized station group. The fact
that two brothers, operating in Erie,
Pa., the country’s 144th-largest DMA,
successfully do all this is remarkable.
It’s so notable, in fact, that Brian
Lilly, the president and CEO of the
NBC affiliate WICU, and Kevin Lilly,
owner and president of the CBS affiliate, WSEE, have been named B&C’s 2010
Multiplatform Broadcasters of the Year.
Soon after Kevin Lilly purchased CBS affiliate
WSEE in 2002, Erie NBC affiliate WICU,
owned by Brian and his father, George Lilly,
through SJL Broadcasting of Pa., began operating
WICU under a leased market agreement.
In 2009, all operations were moved
into WICU’s facilities.
That’s where a staff of about 80 now produces
57.5 hours of local news each week for three
Erie outlets—WSEE, WICU, and CW affiliate
WSEE-DT2—in addition to supplying all the
weather and some of the news for the brothers’
24-hour One Caribbean Television (OCT).
Earlier this year, the facility became a betatest
site for WideOrbit’s new automation system.
The brothers are eyeing the possibility of
a mobile DTV launch. But their multi-platform
strategy “really relies on people, not automation,”
notes Brian Lilly, who stresses they consolidated
their operations and launched OCT
prior to deploying the automation system. “It’s
really kind of old-school. Kevin and I
both believe it’s all about localism.”
from their dad, who regularly brought
his kids in to the Buffalo, N.Y., CBS affiliate he managed.
More recently, the brothers’ focus
on local needs played a key role in the
development of the Caribbean channel.
During travels to the region, Brian
Lilly found very little local news and
weather on TV. So in January 2005, the
brothers added a five-minute Caribbean
weather report to the WSEE feed
that was already being sent to Puerto Rico and
other Caribbean markets. Those efforts grew
into OCT; launched July 1, 2009, it is now
pro! table and available in 14 countries.
“Being a family-owned operation means we
can really take a long-term view of the business,”
says Kevin Lilly. “We can build things
organically without having to worry about
quarterly earnings estimates.”