Market Eye: In the Swing

South Florida’s local news scene is as colorful as ever
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It takes a bold approach to stand out in perhaps the most fragmented television market in the nation, and WSVN Miami pulls it off with loads of local news coverage delivered by eye-grabbing, and ratings-hogging, talent. Sunbeam Television’s Fox affiliate added an hour to its morning newscast last August, giving WSVN a stunning 10½ hours of local news a day. “We continue to pour it on as far as news is concerned,” says Bob Leider, general manager. “That is the base of our television station.”

More than 46% of the Miami–Ft. Lauderdale market claims Hispanic origins, according to BIA/Kelsey. So rich are the Spanish-language offerings that local TV executives speak of “microniches” that broadcast to subsets such as Cuban expats. Miami’s Univision and Telemundo outlets are huge, and Leider says an Englishlanguage station can’t be a market leader without having lots of Hispanic viewers on board. “We relate to that community very well,” he says.

Things look sunny in South Florida. The state is poised for its typical battleground role in the November election, and Miami is exceptionally healthy when it comes to TV revenue. While it is Nielsen’s No. 16 DMA in terms of TV homes, it is No. 7 in revenue, reports BIA/Kelsey.

The stations are well-supported, with lots of network owners and a prominent local one. Post-Newsweek’s WPLG enjoys neither, but is nonetheless a major player. Dave Boylan, VP and general manager, describes WPLG’s approach as “very professional. In a market often known for its tabloid [approach], we’re very strong in investigative and politics,” Boylan says. “Journalism is center to what we do.”

WSVN’s rivals call it a “monster” and a “gorilla”; the station wins most news ratings races in viewers 25-54. WSVN tied Univision’s WLTV in total-day household (HH) ratings in last November’s sweeps. WLTV won primetime, with CBS O&O WFOR edging out WSVN for the English-language HH lead. (WSVN won prime in 25-54.) WLTV grabbed late news with a 6.5 household rating/12 share, ahead of Telemundoowned WSCV. WPLG was tops at 11 p.m. among English-language entries at a 4.1/8. WSVN took mornings easily, while WLTV and WSCV split the early evening news crown.

Tribune owns CW affiliate WSFL. In terms of duopolies, CBS owns MyNetworkTV outlet WBFS, while Univision has TeleFutura-airing WAMI. Other Spanish-language channels include Cuban-targeted WJAN and Mega TV station WSBS. Comcast is the dominant subscription TV operator.

NBC owns WTVJ and sister WSCV. Former WSCV GM Manuel Martinez was named WTVJ GM Feb. 14 after Ardyth Diercks departed. WTVJ is enjoying additional resources from Comcast-NBCUniversal, including 30 new staffers and 12 new live vehicles. The station last fall added four hours of weekend-morning news.

WFOR has Dr. Phil at 4 p.m. weekdays in place of Oprah Winfrey, while The Big Bang Theory is a WBFS “tentpole,” says Adam Levy, VP/GM. WFOR loves its NFL Miami Dolphins partnership— whether or not the team is good in a given year. “Ratings are amazingly consistent,” Levy says. “The fans are there, week in and week out.”

WSFL has undergone the largest makeover in the market. Scrapping its morning newscast last year, WSFL has Tribune’s Eye Opener show at 6 a.m. and new branding touting an entertainment-heavy lineup. “We decided we need our own brand and own identity again,” says GM Howard Greenberg.

The often-sexy presentation in Spanishlanguage newscasts has influenced Miami TV. While some rivals question the outfi ts worn by WSVN talent, it clearly works for the station. “When we lost our affiliation in 1989 [with NBC], we realized we had to be very attractive as a news station, in terms of content and graphics and people,” says Leider. “That blend is what the station is all about.”

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

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