Market Eye: 'Boro of Vital Statistics

Acquisitions, arrivals and departures—there is action aplenty in Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem, N.C.
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It's been a fitful time in Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem, N.C., and that’s without even considering the 16 straight days of rain starting in late June. Karen Adams, a fixture in the market after a decade and a half running WGHP, left to take over Fox’s newest owned station, WJZY Charlotte. WFMY parent Gannett pulled off the station deal of the year in its Belo acquisition, only to have that title swiped when WGHP owner Local TV was acquired by Tribune for $2.7 billion.

WFMY also nabbed what it calls “the Piedmont Triad’s most popular news anchor” in Julie Luck from WGHP. “A lot of things have been going on at the other stations,” says Hank Price, WXII president and general manager. “We’re very stable here.”

A Little ‘R&R’

In the spirit of the market these days, WFMY is far along with its plans to essentially remake the station in a DMA where NBC affiliate WXII wins household ratings and Fox outlet WGHP claims adults. Larry Audas, WFMY president/GM, is implementing his “R&R” plan, which involves very little rest or relaxation. The CBS affiliate is talking up “Risk and Relevance” to compete with the big players: scrapping its traditional sets and delivery, moving a local treasure out of an established daypart and otherwise doing whatever it takes to stand out.

“We are looking for relevance, and we’re not afraid of the risk to get there,” says Audas.

Sinclair has ABC affiliate WXLV and MyNetworkTV station WMYV. Lockwood Broadcasting recently acquired WCWG. The CW affiliate has increased its presence at events around the market. “That’s something we will continue to do,” says Matt Pumo, VP and general manager.

Time Warner Cable is the primary subscription TV operator in the DMA; its News 14 channel produces 6:30 a.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts for WXLV.

News 14 has five channels across North Carolina. Featuring weather on the 1s and a nightly 10 p.m. sports show—along with updates from its higherprofile cousins in Washington and on Wall Street— News 14 ran an intense abortion debate live out of Raleigh in early July. “It’s become a huge issue,” says Alan Mason, News 14 VP/GM. “Our ability to put it on is one of the things that differentiates us.”

There is a major news station in each subsection of the northern N.C. market. WFMY is in Greensboro, WGHP is in High Point and Hearst TV’s WXII is in Winston-Salem. “Regionalism plays a big role in the history of viewing the stations here,” says Audas.

WXII and WFMY were deadlocked in total-day household ratings in the May sweeps. WFMY won primetime in a landslide. WXII had the top 11 p.m. score, its 5.8 rating/11 share ahead of WFMY’s 5.6/10, while WGHP put up a 6.5/10 at 10 and easily won the 25-54 race. WXII grabbed the early evening news contests and posted the top a.m. news household numbers.

BIA/Kelsey has WGHP atop the revenue pack in DMA No. 46 with an estimated $22 million last year, ahead of WXII ($20.6 million) and WFMY ($19.9 million).

Karen Adams joined WGHP as a camera operator in 1976 and became GM in 1997. Jim Clayton came out of retirement in April to run the station on an interim basis after her exit. He is a familiar face within Fox, having been the GM at WNYW New York, among others, while most recently running Fisher’s Seattle properties. WGHP features 8½ hours of local news per day and what Clayton describes as “very tenured, recognizable people” on the set. Clayton says coanchor Katie Nordeen’s promotion to evenings has been smashing. “There was concern when Julie [Luck] left, but it turned out that we just got better,” he says.

Bigger News Appetite

Amid what Price calls a “stable” environment at WXII, the NBC affiliate is trying new things. Coming out of the Olympics last summer, Price sought to capitalize on the popularity of digi-net Me-TV by launching a 10 p.m. newscast on the dot-two. He says it’s averaging close to a 1 household rating. “There was only one 10 p.m. news in the market, and I felt like there was a bigger appetite than that,” he says. “Me-TV has been a huge success, and we saw this as an opportunity.”

WXII has focused on North Carolina’s war heroes of the past, including its Flight of Honor work with World War II vets and a Vietnam veterans special. The station saluted local Korean War heroes with a primetime special July 25, 60 years after the truce was signed.

Over at transforming WFMY, Audas has gotten rid of anchor desks and put a second studio in the newsroom. There’s a stand-up table to keep meetings crisp and lively, and an investigative newscast in place of Andy Griffith at 5:30. “The approach is different, the presentation is different,” says Audas, “and I’d like to think the content is different.”

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