News Articles

Tough To Make a Buck

Flint stations battle sluggish economy 4/17/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

Until recently, Flint did not have a local affiliate for The WB. That changed when Barrington Broadcasting keyed in on that opportunity by acquiring the market rights for The WB from Acme Broadcasting, which held an unexercised option on an FCC license.

The new WB affiliate launched the network on one of Barrington-owned NBC affiliate WEYI’s digital channels. But that didn’t do much: About 10% of area residents have the digital TVs necessary to capture the over-the-air digital channels.

To really be seen, Barrington’s WB station needed cable and satellite carriage. To sweeten its pitch, the company bought rights to air Detroit Pistons NBA basketball games and played up the appeal of The WB’s young-skewing programming. “This is brand-new programming people in the market have not seen, just heard about,” says WEYI VP/GM Jeff Gilbert, who also oversees the WB station. The strategy worked. Both DirecTV and local cable companies Comcast and Charter now carry the WB feed as part of their main service. (There is still no UPN carriage in the market.)

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

The Demos
Who Share of population Index*
Source: Scarborough Release 75 Markets Report 2004
White 87% 106
Black 10% 80
Hispanic 3% 23
Asian 0% 12

Sidebars:

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

Sixteen years after filmmaker Michael Moore spotlighted economically depressed Flint, Mich., and its auto-industry woes in his film Roger & Me, the Rust Belt city is still struggling. Over time, General Motors, once the city’s lifeblood and largest employer, has sliced its workforce from 80,000 employees to about 15,000 locals.

The performance of Flint-Saginaw television reflects the economic hardships of this city. In 2004, local broadcasters took in $57.6 million in gross revenue, according to BIA, up from $53.4 million the year before. But Flint still ranks as the 74th-largest market in total revenue, almost 10 spots behind its market size.

“The challenge for us is to go seek new dollars,” says WNEM GM Al Blinke. “In a lot of markets, you can depend on the same advertisers coming back day after day. But here, if the economy gets tough, they tighten their belts.”

Like most markets, automotive is the largest advertising category, but it is not without its challenges. Thanks to its hometown ties, GM doesn’t need to advertise heavily on local TV stations, and for the same reason, Ford and Chrysler don’t either. About 92% of Flint residents drive U.S.-made cars, according to Scarborough research, so foreign automakers also don’t spend much time wooing Flint car buyers.

There is some good news. As the Detroit suburbs push north, communities are spilling into what is technically the Flint-Saginaw market. “It helps that the surrounding areas are showing improvement,” says WEYI VP/GM Jeff Gilbert.

WJRT is an ABC O&O in the 65th-largest broadcast market, and Meredith Broadcasting owns CBS affiliate WNEM. Barrington Broadcasting recently bought NBC affiliate WEYI, and Sinclair Broadcasting operates Fox station WSMH.

WJRT and WNEM are hyper-competitive, trading top ratings in news and other dayparts. In February, WJRT won early morning and noon news, while WNEM claimed 5 and 6 p.m. In the key 11 p.m. news, the stations tied at a 10 rating, but WNEM’s 27 share was two points better than WJRT’s.

Looking for an edge in the news battle with WJRT, Meredith bought a local AM radio station and converted it to WNEM-AM news radio. The station simulcasts all the TV newscasts, and WNEM anchors also broadcast on the radio.

WJRT is trying a different news play. Its rival WNEM gets big ratings running The Oprah Winfrey Show, and that talk powerhouse sets up its early-evening news to win. After trying in vain to compete, WJRT has decided to start the market’s first 4 p.m. newscast this July against Oprah. Says WJRT Program Director Sara Jo Gallock, “We think this is the right move, given our strength in local news.”

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

Until recently, Flint did not have a local affiliate for The WB. That changed when Barrington Broadcasting keyed in on that opportunity by acquiring the market rights for The WB from Acme Broadcasting, which held an unexercised option on an FCC license.

The new WB affiliate launched the network on one of Barrington-owned NBC affiliate WEYI’s digital channels. But that didn’t do much: About 10% of area residents have the digital TVs necessary to capture the over-the-air digital channels.

To really be seen, Barrington’s WB station needed cable and satellite carriage. To sweeten its pitch, the company bought rights to air Detroit Pistons NBA basketball games and played up the appeal of The WB’s young-skewing programming. “This is brand-new programming people in the market have not seen, just heard about,” says WEYI VP/GM Jeff Gilbert, who also oversees the WB station. The strategy worked. Both DirecTV and local cable companies Comcast and Charter now carry the WB feed as part of their main service. (There is still no UPN carriage in the market.)

The WB Gets in the Game, via Cable

The Demos
Who Share of population Index*
Source: Scarborough Release 75 Markets Report 2004
White 87% 106
Black 10% 80
Hispanic 3% 23
Asian 0% 12

 

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