Catching a Homespun 'Buzz' - Broadcasting & Cable

Catching a Homespun 'Buzz'

Acme's high-energy morning show gets local
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Following an extraordinarily successful trial in Wisconsin, the Acme-owned syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz is offering local inserts to its 147 affiliates starting this week.

WBUW Madison was a test case for the young-skewing three-hour program, which airs primarily on CW and MyNetworkTV stations in smaller markets. Acme is allowing affiliates to add two local segments into each hour of the light news/entertainment daily program. Totaling almost six minutes per hour, the cut-ins can be filled with everything from live local traffic to taped movie reviews to advertiser spotlights.

Buzz principals say the decision to provide windows for local segments came from both the FCC emphasizing more local content at the station level, and stations themselves wishing to grow their hyper-local offerings.

“All of us come from the station business; we put ourselves in the shoes of station people and thought this is what makes sense for them,” says Buzz VP/General Manager Sandi Gehring. “The ability to insert significant amounts of local content is very important to stations.” (Meredith Broadcasting's Better, syndicated in several markets, also offers local slots.)

The Daily Buzz launched six years ago on WBDT Dayton, the brainchild of Acme Chief Operating Officer Doug Gealy, along with WBDT's then-General Manager Stan Gill. After a two-year run, the program was relocated to Orlando to better take advantage of celebrities who found themselves in Florida more than they did Dayton. Buzz features youthful “hosts” who take perkiness to a new level as they report and ad-lib on the news of the day. (A daily recap of the show, called FastCast, can be seen at www.DailyBuzz.tv.)

“It's very different from a traditional newscast,” says Gill, now the VP/General Manager at Acme's Albuquerque duopoly KWBQ and KASY. “You won't see the hosts in suits and ties.”

Among the Buzz affiliates are KXRM Colorado Springs, WRDQ Orlando, KHON Honolulu and WBNX Cleveland. For the first time, Acme shopped the show at NATPE this past January. It's courting partners in top 10 markets, and is dangling the local-insert angle in front of potential mates.

In Madison, WBUW, a CW outlet, didn't just find a new reporter when Emmy Fink, a recent college grad, started in January 2007. Hosting lighthearted inserts dubbed “Buzzed Into Madison,” Fink emerged as nothing less than “the face of the station,” says VP/General Manager Tom Keeler. Tasked with “capturing the spirit of Madison,” the exuberant Fink's bits have covered everything from laser tag to a Norwegian dance festival to sponsored segments on local businesses.

Household share for the program jumped from a 0.7 to a 2 in the first hour from November 2006 to November 2007, a 186% leap, while the second hour saw adults 25-54 spike from a 0.4 to a 2.8.

“Emmy gives us a local presence and an identity outside of the network programming,” says Keeler, who mentions “across-the-board gains in ratings” since Fink came on. “She's covering the stories that the other stations are not.”

Fink, a substitute teacher prior to starting at WBUW, was one of 100 hopefuls to respond to a call for station “spokesmodels.” Station executives winnowed the list to four (including local resident Dirk Been from the original Survivor cast), and viewers voted the twenty-something Fink into her new role.

A star in Madison

Sporting the tagline “Local. Positive. Madison,” the “Buzzed Into Madison” inserts not only add an interactive element to the station—Keeler says WBUW gets as many as 50 story ideas a week via e-mail—but significant revenue as well. One recent segment saw Fink host a tour of Madison's boutiques, which was sponsored by the shops and offered gift-certificate giveaways for viewers. Keeler says the “local business vignettes” have been a key driver of revenue. “It's a good way to create sales opportunities and pull in marketers who may not have big budgets for TV,” he says.

Buzz affiliates can opt out of the insert program and stay with the national feed, but many seem genuinely excited about the local windows. WBDT Dayton VP/GM John Hannon, for one, has seen the show grow from a local Dayton program to a national franchise, and thinks it will only get better as it gets more local.

“We're thrilled they're turning that time back to us,” says Hannon, who will add man-on-the-street interviews and homespun movie reviews, among other things. “This gives us the opportunity to brand our station in the community.”

E-mail comments to michael.malone@reedbusiness.com

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