Market Eye: Seeing Green

No. 44 a local hero, No. 4 not so much
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Local news outlets went into overdrive when President Obama opted to present his health-care plan from Green Bay last month. Stations called on the public to pitch in with reporting, and tapped social networks such as Twitter to give the historic event blanket coverage. LIN Fox outlet WLUK got some 400,000 Obama-related page views on Fox11Online.com from a link on CNN.com. “The amount of interactivity took us by storm,” says VP/General Manager Jay Zollar.

Our 44th president opened his town hall remarks with, fittingly, a Packers shout-out. “We are hoping that both the Packers and the Bears do better this year,” he said. “Come on, we can bring everybody together.” Indeed, it may be the middle of summer, but talk in Green Bay centers on the beloved Packers—and whether former favorite son Brett Favre will wear his trademark No. 4 for the rival Minnesota Vikings. Fans are scrutinizing the rookie class and analyzing a new Packers defensive scheme (they're switching to a 4-3 defense, if you're scoring at home).

The pre-season games, airing on Liberty Media Corp.'s CBS affiliate WFRV, are less than a month away. WFRV also produces several Packers shows that air Wisconsin-wide and in neighboring states. “It's profitable all the way around,” says WFRV President/General Manager Perry Kidder.

Like Favre, a few stations may change hands. ABC affiliate WBAY was put on the block as part of the Young Broadcasting auction that was scheduled for last week, while Acme's CW station WIWB is available, too. The station, which debuts The Office in the fall and recently marked its 10th anniversary, is rich in sitcoms. “We try to zig when everyone else zags,” says VP/General Manager Steve Shanks.

Featuring what its managers describe as “fluff-free” news, WBAY won morning and evening news in May, and grabbed the 10 p.m. title with an 8.7 household rating/21.2 share. WLUK, with a new 9,000-square-foot content center, won the 2008 revenue race; according to BIA Financial, its $20.325 million topped WBAY's $19.1 million. Other players include Journal Broadcast's NBC affiliate WGBA, which manages Ace TV's MyNetworkTV outlet WACY.

Green Bay-Appleton's major employers include trucking firm Schneider National and large regional offices representing Procter & Gamble and Georgia Pacific. BIA ranks the market No. 64 in revenue—considerably stronger than its No. 70 size. “We're probably better off than [most] other areas, but it's still not great,” says WBAY General Manager Don Carmichael. “There's a little more stability here.”

And everyone has circled Aug. 1, when Packers training camp starts. The Favre soap opera should be resolved by then. “It's not quite Michael Jackson-level buzz,” Zollar says, “but it is good drama.”

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michael.malone@reedbusiness.com

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