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Pack Mentality

In Green Bay, a winning team is good for business 11/09/2007 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Only the most optimistic fans would've foreseen such a hot start for the Packers, and their success is something the whole of Green Bay can rally behind. Perhaps nowhere else in the country is a pro team and its fans so intertwined; the Packers are publicly owned by some 100,000 shareholders.

A winning Packers team is more than just good for morale—it's good for the economy, say station managers in Green Bay-Appleton. “It puts people in a better buying mood,” says WLUK VP/General Manager Jay Zollar.

The Packers are battling for the best record in the NFC—and several stations are vying for top numbers in Green Bay. WBAY, WFRV and WLUK all finished 2006 within two percentage points in terms of market share, according to BIA Financial. WBAY, a Young Broadcasting-owned ABC affiliate, had the upper hand in May sweeps. It won morning and evening news, but the race is exceptionally close: WBAY won the 10 p.m. race with a 9 rating/23 share, while LIN's Fox station WLUK had a 9/17 at 9 p.m. WBAY, WLUK and Liberty Media's CBS outlet WFRV all scored a 9/17 in primetime, and all were bunched up atop the total day ratings, too.

With Brett Favre and the boys doing their part, the Green Bay economy is solid; it's the 66th market in terms of revenue, despite being No. 70 in size. The big employers are the paper mills, hospitals and insurance companies, and managers say home foreclosures are modest, compared to other parts of the country. That's a sobering new measurement of the economy.

“It may never be a giant growth market like Las Vegas, but it's moving along nicely,” says Guyanne Taylor, VP/General Manager at Journal Broadcast Group's NBC station WGBA.

Green Bay-Appleton took in $75.1 million last year, according to BIA, up from $65.4 million in 2005. WBAY led with $20.5 million, ahead of WFRV ($19.5 million) and WLUK ($19.1 million). Besides Journal's NBC outlet, there's Acme's CW station and Ace TV's MyNetworkTV. When the ledger is closed for 2007, the stations expect a modest uptick in revenue.

Stations are hustling to break from the bunch. WGBA, airing on channel 26, introduced the 9 a.m. show NBC 26 Later Today this fall, with two hours of Today on either side of it, along with the Web features “Your Health Matters” and “My Home Improvement.” “We're offering different marketing avenues to advertisers on the Web,” says Taylor, “while trying to create as much content as we can.”

At WLUK, where most Packer games air, anchor Michelle Melby made her debut last spring, getting a warm reception from viewers, says Zollar. WFRV loads up on Packer programming, including pre-season games and the weekly programs The Mike McCarthy Show (McCarthy is the Packers coach), Inside Lambeau (the Packers, of course, play at Lambeau Field), and Larry McCarren's Locker Room, hosted by the former Packer center. Some are syndicated to a handful of Wisconsin stations. “We are the Packer partner station,” says President/General Manager Perry Kidder, who proudly points out an SRDS study that had Green Bay as the top U.S. market in terms of sports viewing on TV.

But it's WBAY's crown to lose, and President/General Manager Don Carmichael doesn't plan on surrendering it. The station introduced a 4 p.m. news show a year ago, to favorable results. “It does extremely well,” says Carmichael, “better than we expected.”

The same can be said for the local football team.

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