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WTVF looms large in Nashville news race 12/14/2007 07:00:00 PM Eastern

There's a grand ol' news battle going on in the Tennessee capital, and WTVF has seized the upper hand—if only by a fingernail. The Landmark station finished one-tenth of a percentage point ahead of Meredith's WSMV in 2006 revenue, according to BIA Financial, and a crackerjack November book further asserts WTVF's eminence. The only local hi-def station in the market, the CBS affiliate won total day and primetime ratings, as well as morning and late news—grabbing the latter with a convincing 14.7 rating/24 share in households.

That's not only best in Nashville, it's the top-rated 10 p.m. news of any affiliate in a Top 44 market, says Program Director Mark Binda. “We're pretty proud of that,” he adds.

President/General Manager Debbie Turner believes WTVF's news hits a little harder; a Murrow award for a report on crooked car dealers shows the station isn't afraid to give a key advertising segment the business. “We focus on investigative, with strong enterprise reporting,” she says.

The Nashville market took in $153.2 million last year, per BIA, with WTVF's $42.5 million just ahead of WSMV's $42.3 million. Other players are Young Broadcasting's ABC outlet WKRN and Sinclair's Fox affiliate WZTV. Sinclair also owns the local CW and MyNetworkTV stations.

Health care, publishing and, of course, the music business are cornerstone industries, and Nissan recently opened its North American headquarters here. Major League Baseball held its annual winter meetings in Nashville earlier this month.

The market gained 125,000 residents in the past five years, contributing to what one general manager calls “traffic sprawl.” With commuters leaving their homes earlier, pre-dawn news—starting at 4 a.m.—is big business. But despite the growth, the economy continues to sputter. While Nashville is the No. 30 DMA, BIA ranks it No. 38 in terms of revenue. The absence of a state income tax certainly helps prime the pump.

Stations are taking their fierce battle online. With national automotive advertising running on fumes, WSMV launched WSMVCars.com, a partnership with several local auto dealers [Station to Station, Dec. 3]. Last summer, the Meredith outlet kicked off Pros Who Know, a sponsor-driven Web feature with insider know-how from a range of professions. “Local experts tell their story, whether it's an eye care professional or an electrician,” says WSMV General Sales Manager Paul Scott. WSMV.com also invites users to e-mail Nashville Mayor Karl Dean questions, which he may answer on air.

WKRN is planning to re-launch its Nashville Is Talking blog aggregator, and recently rolled out the newsroom blog WKRNNewsExtra.com and Nashflix.com, which invites viewers to send footage of breaking news or even baby photos. “As the convergence of media presents us with new opportunities to reach viewers,” says WKRN President/General Manager Gwen Kinsey, “we're making sure we have the right tools in our tool kit.”

The Sinclair stations are big on sports. WUXP shows SEC football and basketball, and syndicates the state high school football championship throughout Tennessee. Sinclair Group Director Steve Mann recently decided to bring the Sunday night State Auto Sports Zone, on the Fox and MNT outlets, back for another year. “We work hard to create as much local programming as we can,” he says.

Managers agree that Nashville is a good place to settle. “It's a wonderful community,” says Kinsey, who arrived five months ago. “It's got sports, culture, great weather—and great people.”

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