Market Eye: Stretch Run in the Derby City

Tornadoes give Kentucky stations’ newsrooms chances to shine
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Louisville, Ky., had its own frightful tornado visits in late May. Electricity was out in some areas and homes were wrecked. But it left, thankfully, much less damage compared to what otherregions experienced. “Fortunately it wasn’t the size and scope of the tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri,” says Glenn Haygood, WLKY president and general manager. “We’re just thankful not to have to deal with what those states had to deal with.”

Still, the severe weather gave the Louisville news outlets a chance to show their skills. It’s a good batch of TV stations, with strong ownership groups (including Belo, Hearst Television and Raycom), and a savvy viewer base. “There are four very good news stations. You could pop any of us into any market and we’d look like we belong,” says Bill Lamb, president and general manager at WDRB-WMYO. “We represent Louisville well.”

If the May sweeps is any indication, Hearst TV’s WLKY represents Louisville best. The CBS affiliate had a smashing book, winning all major news races, total day ratings and primetime. Its 9.4 household rating/17 share in the vital 11 p.m. news battle topped ABC affiliate WHAS’ 6.8/12. Haygood says WLKY thrives with a consistent talent lineup and an unfl inching commitment to being first, and most comprehensive, in news.

The Louisville news race has been tight for eons, but Haygood says May 2011 showed a significant widening of the gap between No. 1 and the rest. “I don’t know a single [previous] instance where one station here was first with every single newscast,” he says.

Belo owns WHAS. Raycom owns NBC affiliate WAVE, which carried the Kentucky Derby in May. Ken Selvaggi took over WAVE’s GM job in March. Block Communications has the Fox- MyNetworkTV duopoly WDRB-WMYO. Fusion Communications has CW outlet WBKI.

Insight is Louisville’s main cable operator.

The local economy is holding up well. Significant employers include UPS, Ford and GE, and Zappos recently expanded its “fulfillment center” here. There’s a new mayor in Greg Fischer. “He’s a business guy,” says Lamb. “He brings some business principles to the running of the city.”

Stations are being entrepreneurial as well. In August, WAVE will bring back 6-8 a.m. weekend news, which the station had scrapped a few years ago. In the fall, WHAS will kick off the 9 a.m. Great Day Live, and replace Oprah Winfrey with a 4 p.m. news. Mark Pimentel, WHAS president/GM, says the a.m. show will have a branded integration component. “We want it to be first and foremost good television,” he says, “and a sales vehicle second.”

WLKY will debut Anderson Cooper at 9 a.m. this fall. WDRB in January launched a news at 6:30 p.m., when rivals are airing network newscasts. “It’s been up against Egypt, the earthquake in Japan, Libya, the royal wedding and Bin Laden—that’s all happened continuously since we launched,” says Lamb. “We’re hoping for a quiet world for a couple months.”

Stations are bullish on their digital properties. WLKY will add Me- TV to its digital tier in September. WAVE plans to double its stable of 15 Websites next year and add the African-American channel Bounce TV. “We’re a big believer in building those channels,” says Selvaggi.

WHAS shows Kentucky high school and small-college sports on a channel called Wazoo. “It’s unique— all local sports, all the time,” says Pimentel.

WLKY’s considerable May momentum continues into June, as the station is awarded a Service to America award in Washington June 6. The station is being feted for its work in helping special needs children find adoptive homes.

Haygood says WLKY’s in-depth news is a smart fit in DMA No. 50. “Louisville has savvy consumers,” he says. “They respond to quality content.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

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