If ever there was a time when a station general manager had to be on top of his or her game, it was 2009. Business was, of course, way, way off, with stations forced to tap revenue from new sources and crucial ad categories such as automotive on life support. Bankruptcy loomed for several large groups, and general managers had to shift to 24/7 news operations with often drastically shrunken staffs.
The very business of local television was in peril, as viewers increasingly got their news and entertainment from an expanding array of digital devices. Oh, and there was that historic analog shutoff to deal with.
But the savvier general managers withstood the barrage and saw opportunity: advertisers to secure from the ailing newspaper competition, viewers to grab from a struggling TV competitor. Our candidates for the second annual Broadcasting & Cable Station General Manager of the Year, nominated by readers and selected by B&C's editors, showed a wide range of innovation and fortitude as they came up with new ways to keep revenue coming in and deliver local content to their viewers. There were new partnerships with other media, fresh takes on local programming, community service initiatives such as job fairs that built goodwill with viewers, bold revamping of station operations, and unique ways of bringing advertisers to TV for the first time.
But none in our view showed more of those winning qualities than WCBS President/General Manager (and new CBS Television Stations President) Peter Dunn (markets 1-25), WBNS Columbus President/GM Tom Griesdorn (markets 26-50) and WMBF VP/GM Ted Fortenberry (markets 51-plus).
And for the first time, B&C named a Multi-Platform Broadcaster of the Year, awarded to the person or outfit that did the best job of using the various distribution platforms available in the digital age to connect with users in their community. The inaugural prize goes to Weigel Broadcasting.
Read on to find out what made these four winners 2009's best in show.