Cincinnati TV stations are spending big to improve their on-air appearance. WCPO introduced a new set April 21 that Jeff Brogan, VP and general manager, describes as more interactive and better-suited for breaking news. In January WXIX introduced its set, which features a working kitchen. The novelty of a massive 3-over-3 wall of monitors has not faded for Bill Lanesey, WXIX VP and general manager. “It has a network feel to it,” he says. “It gives us a whole new flexibility in the way we communicate information to viewers.”
Cincy stations are wholly focused on connecting on all platforms. WLWT reports it has seen impressive gains on the Web due to a focus on nonstop feeding of the digital beast, complemented with national stories from parent Hearst TV and online partner Internet Broadcasting. Richard Dyer, president/ GM, says WLWT’s combined Web and mobile traffic finished ahead of the Cincinnati Enquirer’s site in February and March in terms of total page views. “The first thing has been a strong commitment to supplying fresh content throughout the day,” Dyer says.
WCPO gets credit for two of the boldest moves of late in the tight Cincinnati news race. The station recently put its Chopper 9 helicopter back in the air, eight years after benching it. It’s the only station chopper in the market. WCPO also erected a paywall on the Web, with premium content set aside for “Insider” subscribers (“Station to Station,” May 5). The Scripps station has hired a batch of seasoned reporters to create content worth paying for. “They’re really top-notch journalists who are able to break stories you normally wouldn’t be able to break,” Brogan says.
Scripps/WCPO are not sharing subscriber or revenue figures.
Amid all the changes, WKRC remains the power in DMA No. 35. Sinclair acquired the station, a former Newport TV property, at the end of 2012. Stephen Mumblow of Deerfield Media, with which Sinclair has an operating relationship, owns sister MyNetworkTV outlet WSTR, while The CW airs on WKRC’s dot-two channel. Les Vann departed as general manager upon the acquisition by Sinclair. WKRC did not return calls, but Cincy TV insiders say Sinclair has largely left the station alone.
WCPO is the ABC affiliate, WLWT is aligned with NBC and Raycom’s WXIX is the local Fox station. The market’s main subscription TV operator is Time Warner Cable.
Young-skewing WLWT put up robust numbers in February due to the Olympics. The station ran a “big-time” image campaign alongside the Games, says Dyer. The Sochi spectacle paced WLWT to a primetime sweeps win, along with a tie for the total-day household title with WKRC and a win in the 25-54 demo. Last November, WKRC led the way, including late news with a 10 household rating/18.6 share, topping WCPO’s 6.1/11.3.
Like many markets, Cincinnati was hit with a harsh winter that impacted stations’ business side. “If it wasn’t snowing, it was very cold,” says Brogan. “There were not as many feet on the street and in the stores.”
The first quarter finished strong, say the GMs, and there is momentum heading into the rest of the year. Key elections, on both the Ohio and Kentucky sides of the DMA, will help as well. The stations had a major story to cover in late April when Toyota announced it was closing up shop just over the Kentucky border, taking 1,600 jobs with it. In February, the collapse of a historic covered bridge also kept the stations busy—including WCPO’s helicopter. “It’s a big advantage with breaking news,” Brogan says. “You get more eyeballs with solid content, and we feel this is a great opportunity to do that.”
WHAT’S WORKING IN CINCINNATI
FULL ‘COURT’ PRESS FROM WXIX
You can never have too much Judge Judy, say the folks at WXIX. The Fox station, which picked up the feisty jurist’s show last fall from WLWT, airs four episodes between 4 and 6:30 p.m. each weekday. VP/GM Bill Lanesey mentions seeing Judy’s power as a table-setter for the local news at various Fox stations around the nation. “Judy has a track record as a news lead-in,” he says.
The show runs at 4, 5, 5:30 and 6 on the Raycom station and is part of a court block that begins at 2:30 with Supreme Justice. WXIX airs the only local 6:30 news in the market, and its ratings almost tripled—from a 0.6 in adults 25-54 to a 1.6 February to February—since Judge Judy came on board. “We have a real solid news product and always have,” says Lanesey. “We just needed a good lead-in.”