Local broadcasters in Buffalo are finding market conditions as uncertain
as an Upstate New York winter. The region is battling a sluggish economy, and
the competitive landscape among stations is unsettled. In September, The WB and
UPN will shut down and form The CW network, but Buffalo stations do not know
who will align with the fifth broadcast network. Sinclair-owned WB outlet WNYO
and LIN TV's UPN outlet WNLO are vying for the affiliation.
Despite the uncertainty, broadcasters' local-news ratings are among
the best in the country. CBS outlet WIVB, also owned by LIN TV, has won every
key newscast for the past 18 sweeps periods. In November, WIVB's late news
averaged a 14.4 rating/25 share, making it the No. 10 newscast in the country
among metered-market stations.
WIVB's main rival, Gannett-owned NBC affiliate WGRZ, is also highly
rated nationally, with a 12.7/22 average that placed it at No. 20 in news in
November. Granite Broadcasting's ABC affiliate is third in late news, with an
Even the UPN affiliate, WNLO, grabs strong news ratings; it notched a
5.2/7 for its 10 p.m. news—better than some Big Three affiliates in other
midsize markets. LIN TV stations' success is based on stability on both sides
of the camera, says General Manager Chris Musial: “Western New York viewers
feel very comfortable with our people.”
But Nielsen's No. 49 TV market is hampered by slow growth; local
broadcasters took in $105.5 million in 2004, barely up from $103.2 million the
year before, according to BIA Financial. Station managers say development in
the city is progressing, and a strong political season, with gubernatorial and
attorney general races, could deliver additional ad dollars. “Are we the next
Charlotte or Atlanta? No, but we're on the way up,” says Nick Magnini,
general manager of Sinclair's WNLO and Fox affiliate WUTV.
WIVB dominates, grossing $28.5 million in 2004, according to BIA. In
November, the latest sweeps, the station won prime time and news and claimed
the top syndicated show, The Oprah Winfrey
Show. It adds The Megan Mullally
Show next fall.
WIVB's competitors are playing up the alternative programming.
Sinclair runs a 10 p.m. news on its WB station but keeps WUTV running sitcoms
in late fringe to counterprogram news. The duopoly will add
Scrubs, Friends and Dr. Keith
Ablow this fall.
NBC affiliate WGRZ carries a version of NBC's 24/7 weather service,
WeatherPlus, and the station is scoring strong ratings with the Olympics. Such
is Olympic demand that the station's magazine show, Olympic Zone, is thriving. Says General Manager Jim
Toellner, “It is preempting The Insider
and even doing a little better.”