After two years of slim pickings, stations finally have plenty of new shows from which to choose going into this week's annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference in Las Vegas.
CBS' The Doctors—described by many as The View with medical professionals—appears to be stations' most popular pick, cleared in most of the country. Station buyers trust the producers, and think audiences want more health information.
“I liked The Doctors because it's a very topical subject. There's something in there for everybody,” says John Remes, president and general manager of Gannett-owned KARE Minneapolis.
Warner Bros. also has nearly completed clearances of The Bonnie Hunt Show, which many stations are buying to pair with Ellen in female-friendly talk blocks.
NBC Universal is selling Deal or No Deal targeting early fringe and access game blocks. Stations are hopeful about Deal because the show continues to enjoy a successful run in primetime. Debmar-Mercury is also seeking clearances for Trivial Pursuit: America Plays, which it is producing in partnership with Hasbro. Both shows could be paired with Disney-ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud.
Stations are refreshing court blocks with Sony's Judge Karen. And though it's going out of production, some stations also are picking up Sony's best-of Judge Hatchett, featuring theme weeks of the show. Program Partners is pitching Family Court With Judge Penny.
Off-cable and off-Internet programs are becoming more common, especially as stations launch digital channels that need fresh but inexpensive content. To that end, Litton Entertainment is selling Storm Stories, off The Weather Channel, and Pimp My Ride and Cribs off MTV. And Debmar-Mercury this month is running a test of Tom Green's House Tonight off the Internet, where the show airs nightly. If it clicks, it could be available for stations next fall.
Still, with many shows renewed out for years and first-run limited to as few as one offering per studio, some station groups, like Meredith and Gannett, are producing their own shows.
B&C's annual programming survey ranks station groups based on 2006 gross revenue as tabulated by BIA Financial Network. Station totals, affiliations and duopoly arrangements were compiled by B&C reporters. Coverage numbers are based on the FCC formula.
1 FOX TELEVISION STATIONS
2006 revenue: $2.44B
Number of stations: 35
Number of markets: 26
Percent of U.S. covered: 38.1%
Markets: 1-162. (WOGX Gainesville, Market 162, is a semi-satellite of WOFL Orlando, Market 19.) Fox has stations in nine of the top 10 markets, led by WNYW New York. The group has duopolies in nine markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It operates 25 Fox and 10 MyNetworkTV (MNT) stations.
On Dec. 22, 2007, Fox announced it was selling eight TV stations—WJW Cleveland, KDVR Denver, KTVI St. Louis, WDAF Kansas City, WITI Milwaukee, KSTU Salt Lake City, WBRC Birmingham and WGHP Greensboro, N.C—to Local TV LLC, a subsidiary of Oak Hill Capital Partners.
With stations in nine of the top 10 markets, including New York City, and nine duopolies, syndicators covet the Fox stations as launching pads for their shows. Last year, Warner Bros. developed TMZ specifically for the Fox stations, a gambit that's working well, but this year, Fox has no big launches in the hopper.
“We've certainly done our share of group-wide launches in the past, but for fall 2008 our needs weren't that expansive,” says Frank Cicha, VP of programming for the Fox TV Station group. “We've filled in comfortably with various projects where we've needed to.”
Fox's lineups are anchored in many markets by Warner Bros.' Tyra Banks, which Fox just renewed for two more years, and court blocks, where Fox renewed Divorce Court, Judge Alex and Cristina's Court, all of which are produced by the group's sister company, Twentieth Television.
Cicha likes Tyra Banks, which last season switched coasts, leaving Los Angeles for Manhattan. “The move to New York City has brought a new level of energy to what's on screen and her bookings have never been better,” Cicha says.
But Fox's plentiful duopolies in top markets—none of which the pending sale will affect—always have space to fill, and Cicha says the group has sprinkled a little bit of everything throughout its stations, including “a Bonnie Hunt here or there and Trivial Pursuit in a half-dozen markets.”
2006 revenue: $1.84B
Number of stations: 26
Number of markets: 20
Percent of U.S. covered: 31%
Markets: Ten NBC stations in seven of the top 10 markets, including flagship WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles. Also operates 15 Telemundo stations and one Spanish-language independent. Duopolies in five markets and a triopoly in Los Angeles.
NBC's local station group—recently renamed the NBC Local Media Division—continues to hunt for new syndicated shows to compete in key time periods where they have struggled to gain traction.
For 2008-09, the 10 NBC O&Os have picked up Deal or No Deal from corporate cousin NBC Universal Television Distribution. In some markets, including New York, the game show will run at 4 p.m. “We think it will be good counterprogramming for the court and talk shows,” says WNBC General Manager Frank Comerford, referring to Oprah and Judge Judy, which run in the time period on New York competitors.
To strengthen daytime, the NBC stations, under the direction of new group President John Wallace, have committed to a two-year deal for Warner Bros. Television's talk show The Bonnie Hunt Show. NBC execs envision the show as a female-friendly companion to the new fourth hour of Today, Ellen and Martha Stewart. NBC stations in eight markets, including L.A., Chicago and San Francisco, have renewed Martha for a fourth season.
But even with two new big-name syndie shows on the way, NBC stations continue to expand news and add local programs. The goal, execs say, is to control their own inventory and programming destiny. “We need things to bring people to their local station,” says Comerford. Local shows present a business opportunity, too. “We can control the production and the advertising, and that is more effective than just selling 30-second spots in a syndicated show,” he adds.
To that end, WNBC New York recently added a 7 p.m. newscast to capture viewers who aren't home in time for early evening local news. For weekends, the station produces a slick local real estate show, Open House New York, and 1st Look New York, about city lifestyle and entertainment.
In Los Angeles, KNBC offers a new Saturday-evening local entertainment show, YourLA. For car enthusiasts, KNBC and sister Spanish-language station KVEA jointly produce Whipnotic, a fast-paced automotive news show produced in English and Spanish versions.
Two likely changes for the group: Neither interactive daytime talk show In the Loop With IVillage nor Program Partners' Crosswords is expected to be renewed.
3 CBS TELEVISION STATIONS
2006 revenue: $1.82B
Number of stations: 29
Number of markets: 18
Percent of U.S. covered: 35.63%
Markets: 1-42, including 15 of the top 20. The group owns 16 CBS, 9 CW, one MyNetworkTV affiliate and three independents. It has nine duopolies: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Sacramento and Pittsburgh. The largest stations are WCBS New York, KCBS and KCAL Los Angeles, and WBBM Chicago.
After years of struggling to keep up with the ABC and NBC stations in the nation's top markets, the CBS stations now are contenders in all dayparts.
The group has done it in part by strengthening its daytime and securing long-term deals for top syndicated fare. Much of this programming is distributed by its sister company, CBS Television Distribution, which is comprised of the former King World and Paramount Domestic Television.
This fall, CBS' The Doctors—a spin-off from Dr. Phil in which five doctors talk about health and wellness in an informal format—will launch on many CBS-owned stations. The Doctors will have its work cut out for it when it enters the highly competitive 9 a.m. slot, replacing double runs of CBS' Entertainment Tonight and The Insider on CBS flagship station WCBS New York come fall.
The Doctors also will appear on five other CBS stations: KCAL Los Angeles, KYW Philadelphia, KTXA Dallas, WFOR Miami and KOPR Sacramento, in both afternoon and morning slots. Other than that, the CBS stations did not have many needs they expect to fill at NATPE.
CBS had more space on its duopoly stations, where it picked up Sony's Judge Karen in many markets.
The group boasts top syndicated programs such as Judge Judy, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider (all distributed by CBS). CBS' solid daytime fare has helped the stations build strong local news and early fringe blocks, all of which is complemented by a strong and consistent primetime performance.
2006 revenue: $1.24B
Number of stations: 10
Number of markets: 10
Percent of U.S. covered: 23.2%
Markets: Stations in Markets 1-60, including WABC New York (1), KABC Los Angeles (2), WLS Chicago (3) and WPVI Philadelphia (4). Smallest markets are WJRT Flint, Mich. (66); and WTVG Toledo, Ohio (72).
With a solid syndication lineup locked up for several more years, the ABC/Disney station group is the envy of many broadcasters.
The Disney stations, top competitors in the biggest markets, have long-term deals for key CBS product including Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and Oprah, all of which are consistently at the top of their genres. As a result, ABC stations do not have holes to patch up.
The group's most recent major addition, in fact, was CBS's cooking-talk show Rachael Ray, which has been a solid performer and is heading into its third season next fall.
In a deal for weekends, KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago, KTRK Houston and KGO San Francisco have picked up weekly reruns of Twentieth's David E. Kelley drama Boston Legal.
5 TRIBUNE BROADCASTING
2006 revenue: $1.10B
Number of stations: 23
Number of markets: 19
Percent of U.S. covered: 27.6%
Markets: 1-41, including flagship WGN Chicago as well as WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles, all of which are CW affiliates. WGN also is a superstation, distributed to nearly 70 million households. The company runs four duopolies: Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. (14); Indianapolis-Bloomington, Ind. (26); Hartford-New Haven, Conn. (29); and New Orleans (53). Besides the 14 CW affiliates, the group owns six Fox, two MNT and one ABC affiliate. Tribune is now privately owned by venture capitalist Sam Zell.
Life is not more certain at Tribune Co., just uncertain in different ways now that the company's purchase by venture capitalist Sam Zell is complete. Changes are still on the way: The company said in December that management of its TV stations would be taken over by Local TV LLC, a subsidiary of Oak Hill Capital Management run by Randy Michaels. Michaels, former head of Jacor and Clear Channel, has a long-standing relationship with Zell. The two merged Jacor with Clear Channel in 1999 and together tripled the company's size in three years. Now that company is in the process of being sold as well.
Local TV also is poised to acquire eight stations from News Corp./Fox, making it potentially the country's most powerful buyer of syndicated product. However, company executives are not ready to speculate on how the co-management arrangement may or may not affect programming buys.
For now, Tribune is particularly happy with its two new off-net sitcoms: Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men and Twentieth's Family Guy, which have rejuvenated its aging sitcom blocks.
Going forward, “The sitcom business has been good to us, so we'll take a look at what's out there for 2009 and beyond as it develops,” says Marc Schacher, Tribune's senior VP of programming.
So far, that's likely to be NBC Universal's The Office and My Name Is Earl, although Tribune has picked up neither show thus far and Fox—Tribune's chief rival for sitcoms—has acquired The Office in several large markets.
“If that show's still available, we'll look at it as we get closer,” Schacher says.
2006 revenue: $1.01B*
Number of stations: 23
Number of markets: 19
Percent of U.S. covered: 18.02%
Markets: 8-152, led by WXIA Atlanta, WUSA Washington and KUSA Denver. Gannett owns 12 NBC, six CBS, three ABC and one MNT affiliate (recently acquired KTVD Denver). It runs three duopolies: Atlanta (8), Denver (18) and Jacksonville, Fla. (49).
*Includes revenue from Gannett's elevator advertising service, Captivate
Gannett runs mainly Big Three affiliates that air stalwart shows such as Dr. Phil, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Rachael Ray and Ellen, all of which are renewed out for years.
In addition, almost all of Gannett's stations have added local community shows that incorporate advertisers into the program. These shows—including KUSA's Colorado & Company, Atlanta's Atlanta & Company and KPNX Phoenix's Arizona Midday—do well for the stations. They equal the demographic performance of more expensive syndicated shows, and allow the Gannett stations to keep far more inventory.
Inventory is tight on most of Gannett's properties. With 12 NBC affiliates, Gannett is obligated to run the fourth hour of the Today show in those markets. Not all Gannett general managers are jubilant about that.
A few Gannett stations had some openings. WUSA Washington, D.C., picked up The Doctors for a 4 p.m. run, says Allan Horlick, the station's president and general manager. “I don't look at it as medical information,” he says. “I look at it as health and wellness information, and that's always valuable to people.”
Horlick also liked the fact that the show was from the producers of the very successful Dr. Phil: “Their track record appeals to me.”
Overall, Gannett's GMs say they like how they're doing in daytime. “It's a great position to be in because several years ago we had some really ratings-challenged syndicated programming,” says John Misner, president and GM of NBC affiliate KPNX. “We went out and aggressively sought shows like Ellen, and at the same time decided it would make sense to program more local time. So now we're in a situation where we don't have any open time periods.”
7 HEARST-ARGYLE TELEVISION
2006 revenue: $845.63M
Number of stations: 26
Number of markets: 25
Percent of U.S. covered: 15.3%
Markets: 5-124. Owns 26 stations and operates three others. Hearst-Argyle is the largest group of ABC affiliates, with 12. It also runs 10 NBC, two CBS, one CW affiliate and one My Network affiliate. It has duopolies in Boston, (5), Orlando (19) and Sacramento (20).
For next season, Hearst-Argyle is filling holes at individual stations rather than cutting group-wide deals.
As a result, new programs are sprinkled across the group. About 10 markets will add The Bonnie Hunt Show and four will take The Doctors. So far, two have signed up Deal or No Deal.
“Our decisions this year are based on stations being opportunistic,” says VP of Programming Emerson Coleman.
After a dearth of quality shows the last two seasons, Coleman says he is pleased with this year's crop. “We need more programs that can stick and grow into long-term franchises,” he says.
Hearst is also doing its part to populate syndication. For 2009-10, Hearst-Argyle plans to introduce its own first-run strip, Interviews With Carlos Watson, into national syndication. The interview program currently runs as quarterly specials across the Hearst group, which Coleman says allows Hearst to develop and incubate the program.
“We're trying to grow Carlos slowly so he'll be ready in September 2009,” he says. “He has a lot of promise.”
To help build exposure, Watson's show already has a dedicated YouTube channel and his interviews with newsmakers, celebrities and politicians are streamed on his Website, Carloswatson.com.
8 BELO CORP.
2006 revenue: $796.93M
Number of stations: 20
Number of markets: 15
Percent of U.S. covered: 13.5%
Markets: 5-113. Largest stations are WFAA Dallas-Fort Worth (6) and KHOU Houston (10). Group includes four ABC, five CBS, four NBC, one Fox, two CW and two MyNetwork affiliates. Also operates two independents: KTVK Phoenix (12) and KONG Seattle (14). Duopolies in five markets: Phoenix, Seattle, New Orleans (54), Tucson (68) and Spokane (77).
Belo's biggest play for 2008-09 is buying The Doctors in seven markets, including two of its largest: KHOU Houston and KTVK Phoenix. Stations in Charlotte, N.C.; Boise, Idaho; Spokane; Kansas City, Mo.; and Tucson also are adding the medical talk show.
Senior VP Rick Keilty says The Doctors should appeal to Belo stations' like-minded news viewers.
“Viewers tell us that medical and health news are one or two of the most important items in a newscast,” he says. “Health is such a strong item, and The Doctors will be a little different with a talk show format.”
Belo also is adding Warner Bros. Television's The Bonnie Hunt Show in a handful of markets, including KING Seattle. While many new talk shows have struggled in recent years, Keilty says he is encouraged by Warner Bros.' track record with female-oriented talkers like Ellen and The Tyra Banks Show. “They have demonstrated an ability to producing this genre and Bonnie is a talent,” he says.
2006 revenue: $740.33M
Number of stations: 68
Number of markets: 25
Percent of U.S. covered: 23%
Markets: Owned by a consortium called Broadcast Media Partners that is comprised of private equity firms Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Saban Capital Group and Providence Equity Partners, Univision's O&O stations mostly broadcast Spanish-language programming in U.S. markets. Univision is the owner and operator of 21 full-power and 9 low-power television stations that air Univision programming, and 22 full-power and 15 low-power television stations that air TeleFutura programming. It owns one English-language television station, MyNetworkTV affiliate KUVI Bakersfield, Calif. (125).
Univision mostly runs Spanish-language networks and typically does not buy English-language syndicated shows.
However, KUVI Bakersfield carries plenty of syndicated fare, much of it older. On the schedule are off-net sitcoms such as Twentieth's Family Guy, Warner Bros.' George Lopez, Disney-ABC's Scrubs, Twentieth's Malcolm in the Middle and Carsey-Werner's That '70s Show. In first-run, it airs a long court block, featuring Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis, Sony's Judge Hatchett, Twentieth's Divorce Court and Judge Alex, and a talk block with NBC Universal's Jerry Springer and Maury. The station airs no news and runs two hours of MyNetwork
10 RAYCOM MEDIA
2006 revenue: $721.38M
Number of stations: 39
Number of markets: 32
Percent of U.S. covered: 9.5%
Markets: 17-180. Cleveland (17) is the company's largest market, where it owns and operates CBS affiliate WOIO and MyNetwork affiliate WUAB. The group owns 16 NBC stations, eight CBS, five each of ABC and Fox, three MNTs and two CWs. It has duopolies in six markets: Cleveland; Richmond, Va. (61); Honolulu (72); Cape Girardeau, Mo. (80); Baton Rouge, La. (93); and Tyler/Lufkin, Texas (111).
With so many stations in so many different-sized markets, Raycom has all sorts of needs to meet. “We've purchased The Doctors, Bonnie Hunt, Trivial Pursuit and Deal or No Deal,” says Mary Carole McDonnell, executive VP of programming for the company. “If you go through the various products, we've pretty much cleared it in one market or another.”
Like most stations, Raycom finds that programming daytime “is very challenging, so what we try to do is stay consistent by programming in blocks and by appealing to specific demographics,” McDonnell says.
McDonnell also has been “pleasantly surprised” by Two and a Half Men and Family Guy, especially since last year at this time she was worrying about stagnant sitcom blocks. “Both shows have been good performers,” she says.
With needs in markets as small as 180 (Jonesboro, Ark.) that are often last stops for syndicators, McDonnell says she keeps wheeling and dealing until March for strips and until May for weekends.
11 COX TELEVISION
2006 revenue: $648.90M
Number of stations: 14
Number of markets: 11
Percent of U.S. covered: 10.24%
Markets: 6-159, with three duopolies: Charlotte, N.C. (25); Orlando (19); and San Francisco (6). The group's flagship is WSB Atlanta (8), where Cox Enterprises is headquartered. Cox Broadcasting owns three ABC, three NBC, three Fox, two CBS and three independent stations. It runs one LMA in Reno: independent KAME.
Cox's big syndication bet for fall is The Doctors, which it picked up in several markets including San Francisco, where the broadcaster has a duopoly.
Cox also likes the idea of game blocks, even though this year's two rookie games—Program Partners' Crosswords and Twentieth's Temptation—are not expected to return. It acquired Debmar-Mercury's Trivial Pursuit, and it has Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud in some markets.
“Game shows are part of what our stations are doing,” says Bruce Baker, executive VP of Cox Television. “That's a genre that's staying on the programming forefront.”
Cox also likes court blocks. In San Francisco, Caroline Chang, program director for KTVU and KICU, renewed Twentieth's Cristina's Court and Judge Alex, and plans to pick up Sony's best-of Judge Hatchett package for all-barter. “Hatchett is appealing to me,” she says. “Daytime numbers in San Francisco are practically nonexistent. A 0.5 is practically a home run. Hatchett still shows up on our ratings books. Sony has eight to 10 years of episodes, so doing theme weeks of the show appeals to me in daytime.”
Cox is keeping itself busy with other projects, launching digital channels at all of its stations. Thus far, six Cox stations are running the Retro Television Network on their digital channel, while five others, including three NBCs, are doing 24/7 weather channels.
12 SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP
2006 revenue: $607.73M
Number of stations: 57
Number of markets: 35
Percent of U.S. covered: 12.34%
Markets: 15-117. Sinclair's largest market is Minneapolis; its smallest, Peoria, Ill. The group is comprised of 19 Fox, 17 MyTV, nine ABC, nine CW, two CBS and one NBC affiliate. It runs 12 duopolies: Pittsburgh (22); Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (28); Nashville (30); Milwaukee (34); San Antonio (37); Birmingham, Ala, (40); Las Vegas (43); Oklahoma City (45); Greensboro, N.C. (46); Buffalo, N.Y. (50); Mobile, Ala./Pensacola, Fla. (61); and Champaign, Ill. (84). The pioneer of the local market agreement, Sinclair also manages 10 stations, including outlets in Tampa, Fla. (13), and Baltimore (24).
Sinclair thinks NBCU's Deal or No Deal is definitely a deal, having picked it up in 26 markets.
“The most successful game shows have started in primetime,” says Bill Butler, Sinclair's VP of programming and promotion. “Deal or No Deal is a very large primetime hit, so that bodes well for its success in syndication.”
The group has Family Feud and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and it's still in talks with Debmar-Mercury about Trivial Pursuit, all of which could help Sinclair stations create solid game blocks.
Sinclair also has picked up Bonnie Hunt in four markets. “Wherever we have a need for a quality show like Ellen, Bonnie Hunt is a natural fit,” Butler says.
The group also has snared Judge Karen in nine markets, the best-of Judge Hatchett in seven markets and The Doctors in one market. It has renewed TMZ and Steve Wilkos.
“I don't agree that daytime is a vast wasteland,” says Butler. “We have made our daytime programming healthy. We keep stable schedules. We air quality programs and programs in blocks, and we don't churn the schedule. We spend a lot of energy on daytime and it's paid off.”
13 LIN TELEVISION GROUP
2006 revenue: $451.60M
Number of stations: 29
Number of markets: 17
Percent of U.S. covered: 9%
Markets: 26-189. Duopolies in six markets, including Indianapolis (26); Hartford, Conn. (29); and Albuquerque (44). Company operates three triopolies, two of which include two English-language affiliates and a Spanish-language station.
With hit CBS Television shows like Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! locked up for several more years, LIN TV stations are well-positioned with their syndicated lineups. Even so, where it has holes in schedules, the company is taking the plunge on several new shows.
The biggest deal is for CBS Television's new entry The Doctors. Seven LIN markets, including WISH Indianapolis, WOOD Grand Rapids, Mich., and WAVY Norfolk, are adding the medical talk show.
VP Scott Blumenthal is upbeat about the show's prognosis. “It comes with a good pedigree, and medical issues are hot topics right now and of interest to boomers,” he says.
LIN is also giving Warner Bros. Television's Bonnie Hunt talk show a go, adding the program in five markets: WALA Mobile, Ala., WOOD Grand Rapids, WDTN Dayton, Ohio, WAVY Norfolk and KXAS Austin, Texas.
Even in a syndication market littered with failed talk shows, Blumenthal says Hunt has a chance to make it. “She is a good talent and personable,” he says. He likens Hunt to another Warner Bros' syndication personality, Ellen DeGeneres: “She is very similar to Ellen, and we've been very happy with that success.”
Blumenthal says he also plans to buy a few game shows, including Debmar-Mercury's Trivial Pursuit: America Plays for a few markets.
And while the group acquires new strips, LIN stations are increasing the quantity of their locally produced programs. A number of outlets, including affiliates in Green Bay, Albuquerque and Mobile, are expanding newscasts.
LIN stations are trying to reach audiences on new platforms as well. Several outlets, including WISH, WOOD and WPRI Providence, R.I., have launched YouTube channels to showcase their news, sports and entertainment clips.
14 MEDIA GENERAL
2006 revenue: $441.53M
Number of stations: 23
Number of markets: 21
Percent of U.S. covered: 9.5%
Markets: 13-180. Largest market is WFLA Tampa, Fla., where the company also owns newspaper The Tampa Tribune. One duopoly in Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson, S.C. (36).
Media General's major play for the 2008-09 season is buying Warner Bros.' Bonnie Hunt Show in four of its biggest markets: WNCN Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; WFLA Tampa; WCMH Columbus, Ohio; and WVTM Birmingham.
Media General is adding The Doctors in Tampa, Birmingham and Columbus. VP of Programming Steve Gleason is urging his stations to be patient with the medical talk show. “I've told them it may not break out right away, but once the doctors jell and get comfortable, the viewers can get comfortable with them,” he says. “The show has a chance to do pretty well.”
The group signed up Deal or No Deal for WKRG Mobile, Ala., and WSLS Roanoke, Va. The Mobile station also picked up Sony Pictures Television's Judge Karen, who Gleason says “is a good personality. If they can develop a show and utilize her, I think it has a good shot.”
Media General has been active in the station marketplace. Last fall, the company said it was exploring the sale of five stations in the Southeast, including WCWJ Jacksonville, Fla., a CW affiliate, and WTVQ Lexington, Ky., an ABC affiliate.
That news comes after Media General bought four stations from NBC Universal in 2006, and subsequently had to sell several of its own stations to meet ownership limits.
15 E.W. SCRIPPS
2006 revenue: $439.25M
Number of stations: 10
Number of markets: 9
Percent of U.S. covered: 8%
Markets: 11-60. Group includes six ABC, three NBC outlets and one independent. One duopoly in Kansas City, Mo. (31).
This season's promising crop of new shows is inspiring Scripps to make changes at most of its stations.
The company picked up CBS Television's The Doctors for WXYZ Detroit, WMAR Baltimore and KSHB Kansas City. Scripps is also adding Warner Bros. Television talker The Bonnie Hunt Show for WEWS Cleveland, WCPO Cincinnati and WFTS Tampa. In Phoenix, ABC affiliate KNXV will air NBC Universal Television's Deal or No Deal, and independent KMCI Kansas City, Mo., is also taking the game show.
Scripps is making these moves, in part, because the company largely decided not to renew NBCU's Martha Stewart, currently running on six stations, in several markets.
VP of Programming Gary Stark says Scripps has been happy with Martha, but the group is ready to trade up with fresh offerings like The Doctors and Bonnie Hunt. “We felt a change might be good,” he says. “We will be a little more diverse with our programming now.”
Bonnie Hunt, he says, will be a good match with Ellen in Cincinnati and Tampa, two markets that recently renewed the comedian's talk show. The Doctors will be replacing Martha in Detroit and Baltimore, although the company did renew Martha in Phoenix.
“We like that The Doctors is associated with Dr. Phil,” Stark says. “We tried to do deals for more markets, but we couldn't offer the time slots they wanted.”
16 POST-NEWSWEEK GROUP
2006 revenue: $426.33M
Number of stations: 6
Number of markets: 6
Percent of U.S. covered: 7.4%
Markets: 10-49. Largest markets are KRPC Houston (10) and WDIV Detroit (11); smallest market is WJXT Jacksonville (49). Group includes two ABC affiliates, two NBCs, one CBS and one independent.
Post-Newsweek is not on a buying binge this year, but the six-station group is cutting a handful of deals for new big-name shows.
WKMG Orlando and WJXT Jacksonville are adding CBS Television's ensemble talk show The Doctors. In Detroit, the group's strong NBC affiliate WDIV is picking up Deal or No Deal. The shows will both run in daytime slots. Several stations are also looking at court shows, although no deals have been made.
While hits are hard to come by in syndication, Post-Newsweek President and CEO Alan Frank says both The Doctors and Deal or No Deal have a chance to develop a following. “Deal is a great, classic format and Howie [Mandel] is the right guy to host,” he says. As for The Doctors, he says, “they'll take hot issues that people are talking about and have doctors from different disciplines intelligently discussing the topics.”
Despite the high hopes, Post-Newsweek is scheduling the freshman programs in daytime, well away from the stations' highly rated local newscasts. “Neither show will be in places that will make or break us,” Frank says. “They won't be lead-ins for news.”
17 MEREDITH CORP.
2006 revenue: $363.95M
Number of stations: 13
Number of markets: 11
Percent of U.S. covered: 7.63%
Markets: 8-192. The Broadcast Group's two largest stations are WGCL Atlanta and KPHO Phoenix, both CBS affiliates. It has six CBS, three Fox, two MyNetworkTV, one NBC and one CW outlet in Chattanooga, which it has put up for sale. It has duopolies in Kansas City, Mo. (31), and Portland, Ore. (23). The group also has several digital stations, including a MyNetwork in Flint-Saginaw, Mich. (66), and a Telemundo affiliate in Nashville (30), and a broadband network, Better.tv, that offers 20 channels of lifestyle programming over the Internet.
Meredith's focus for 2008 is its own show: Better, which already is airing on its own stations and three Journal Broadcast stations. Meredith Broadcast Group President Paul Karpowicz and his sales team will be at NATPE pitching the show to stations all over the nation.
“The beauty of this show is that it's 100% guaranteed to go,” says Karpowicz. “It is so successful for just our Meredith stations that we would be doing it regardless of how many other stations come on with us.”
Better—derived from the title of Meredith's popular magazine, Better Homes and Gardens—is customizable for whatever market is airing it. Its name is meant to be changed to fit the market—Better Atlanta or Better Phoenix, for example—and Meredith is offering affiliates two four-minute segments within the show that they can use for product integration or news breaks.
Otherwise, “we're really pretty full,” says Karpowicz. “For all intents and purposes, we're done.”
18 GRAY TELEVISION
2006 revenue: $353.93M
Number of stations: 32
Number of markets: 30
Percent of U.S. covered: 5.4%
Markets: 58-190. Gray's largest market is WVLT Knoxville, and its smallest is Parkersburg, W.Va./Marietta, Ohio. Gray owns 17 CBS stations—making it the country's largest operator of CBS affiliates—10 NBC, eight ABC and one Fox affiliate. It also operates 40 digital sub-channels, including one ABC, five Fox, eight CW and 16 MyNetworkTV affiliates, eight local news/weather channels and two independent channels.
With mostly Big Three affiliates on Gray's slate, its syndication needs are largely filled for years to come with veteran shows such as Live With Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Gray also tries to appeal to families by sticking with nostalgia programming such as The Andy Griffith Show and Frasier.
Much of the group's programming focus is on its new digital channels. With each network only offering two hours of primetime programming each evening (and Fox's late-night talker, Talk Show With Spike Feresten), Gray is challenged to keep the digital channels full. Thus far—and it's early yet—Gray is doing that with a mix of syndicated and paid programming, such as niche home shopping network Jewelry Television.
19 CLEAR CHANNEL TELEVISION/NEWPORT TELEVISION LLC
2006 revenue: $347.95M
Number of stations: 35
Number of markets: 25
Percent of U.S. covered: 5.8%
Markets: 6-202 with 12 duopolies. Largest market is independent KFTY San Francisco-Santa Rosa (6). It has seven Fox, seven NBC, six ABC, six CBS, three CW and two MyNetworkTV, including a station shared with Fox in Jacksonville, Fla. (49). It also runs two low-power Telemundo affiliates and three independent stations. In addition, the group has 12 digital stations, a few of which are CW affiliates, and it also operates three LMAs in Harrisburg, Pa. (41); Monterey/Salinas, Calif. (124); and Wichita, Kan. (149).
In November, the FCC gave conditional approval to Clear Channel's $1.255 billion sale to Newport Television LLC, a holding company that is part of Providence Equity Partners.
Due to Clear Channel's reorganization, no one was available to speak about the company's programming plans. Repeated calls to both Clear Channel and Newport Television over several weeks went unreturned, as they worked instead on how to make its new arrangement work.
Because the deal puts Newport in violation of FCC station limits and newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership prohibitions—mainly due to Providence's 19% interest in Univision and 16% interest in Freedom Communications, which also owns newspapers—the company needs to rearrange some assets to come into compliance. It can divest its interest in Univision, divest its interest in Freedom, sell some stations, reassign some station licenses, or a combination of the above. The group seems more likely to sell stations than divest company interests.
The FCC said it would grant Newport temporary waivers in eight markets, giving it six months to divest or reassign assets in Bakersfield, Calif.; San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose; Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, Calif; Jacksonville, Fla.; Fresno-Visalia, Calif.; Monterey-Salinas, Calif.; Salt Lake City and San Antonio. In Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y., the company has to sort out conflicting interests due to its investment in Freedom.
In September 2007, Newport, run by Sandy DiPasquale, agreed to sell KFTY San Francisco and KVOS Bellingham, Wash., both independents, to LK Station Group for $26.6 million. Last October, it also sold CBS affiliate KION Monterey/Salinas, Calif.; Telemundo affiliate KMUV-LP Monterey/Salinas, Calif.; CBS affiliate KCOY Santa Barbara, Calif.; and KKFX-CA Santa Barbara, Calif., to Cowles Publishing for $41 million.
20 SUNBEAM TELEVISION CORP.
2006 revenue: $256.20M
Number of stations: 3
Number of markets: 2
Percent of U.S. covered: 3.5%
Markets: 5-16. Sunbeam owns three stations in two of the top 20 markets: Fox affiliate WSVN Miami-Fort Lauderdale (16) and a duopoly in Boston (5), comprised of NBC affiliate WHDH and CW outlet WLVI.
With three stations, Sunbeam only needs to buy an occasional new program for its stations. Plus, its outlets are news-heavy, leaving few holes for acquired product. Fox affiliate WSVN Miami, for instance, programs more than 60 hours of news per week, among the highest in the country for any local station.
For next season, Sunbeam's main move is adding The Doctors to its NBC affiliate WHDH Boston. Executive VP Bob Leider cut a two-year deal for the show with the late CBS Television Distribution Chairman Roger King in December, the week before the syndication legend passed away.
Leider thinks the program could be a winner. “They are all good personalities and they are all very passionate about this topic,” he says.
The group also renewed Warner Bros.' entertainment newsmagazine Extra, and WHDH and WSVN are adding weekly off-net runs of Twentieth's Boston Legal.
Since Sunbeam acquired WLVI from Tribune Co. in late 2006, it has overhauled the station's operations. Sunbeam closed the WLVI news department; WHDH's news operation is now producing the CW outlet's 10 p.m. news. There has also been talk of a WHDH-produced morning show for WLVI, although no show has launched yet. With a combined news operation, says Leider, “The economies of scale are great.”
21 YOUNG BROADCASTING
2006 revenue: $232.83M
Number of TV stations: 14
Number of markets: 11
Percent of U.S. covered: 5.8%
Markets: 5-177. Largest is former independent KRON San Francisco, now one of the country's most successful MyNetworkTV affiliates, which Young put on the market this month. Smallest is Rapid City, S.D., a satellite of KELO Sioux Falls, S.D., a CBS affiliate. Young owns six CBS, six ABC, one NBC and one MNT affiliate.
Even though there's plenty of product to choose from this year, Young didn't have many holes to fill so it bought judiciously. The group acquired Bonnie Hunt in one market and The Doctors in another. It also renewed Rachael Ray for two more years and Martha Stewart for one.
With the dearth of new first-run programming available in past years, Young has focused on developing advertiser-supported, locally originated programming, particularly in the Bay Area, where it owns KRON, which is now up for sale.
“We do a lot of local programming here, more than any station in the market,” says Pat Patton, Young's VP of programming. “Our objective is to be hyper-local. We buy syndicated programming only for key time periods, those surrounding our news,” of which KRON does nine hours each day. Those shows include four from CBS: Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Inside Edition and Dr. Phil.
Young's second-largest station, ABC affiliate WKRN Nashville, airs six syndicated shows. Live With Regis and Kelly and Martha Stewart run in the mornings; Judge Judy airs in the afternoons before the station's news; Wheel of Fortune runs in access; Sex and the City broadcasts in late fringe, before Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live; and Extra airs in late night.
22 ALLBRITTON COMMUNICATIONS
2006 revenue: $227.23M
Number of stations: 8
Number of markets: 7
Percent of U.S. covered: 4.0%
Markets: 9-68. All stations are ABC affiliates. Allbritton owns three stations in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa/Anniston market (40), two full-power stations and a low-power station, all of which transmit the same signal. The group's largest station is WJLA Washington, D.C., where it also has a 24-hour news outlet, NewsChannel 8, now in its 16th year. Allbritton also has 24-hour weather channels, digital channels and a Web portal, The Politico, which it launched a year ago.
All of Allbritton's stations are ABC affiliates, which keeps its syndication needs low because the stations are heavy with local news, and ABC still programs The View and soap operas in daytime.
The group did clear The Bonnie Hunt Show in four markets: Birmingham, Ala.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Lynchburg, Va., says James Killen, VP of sales.
“Most of our slots were for mornings,” says Killen, “and those dynamics aren't like early fringe. You need to be more conservative with what you are paying each week for a show.”
Allbritton's WJLA also picked up Millionaire from Gannett's WUSA. The station will air the show at 12:30 p.m. out of its noon news, replacing Program Partners' Crosswords, which isn't expected to return next fall.
In general, Allbritton tries to stick with tried-and-true programs, and it airs newscasts in access time slots in three markets: Harrisburg, Lynchburg and Charleston, S.C.
“That's programming we can control,” says Killen. “Most new syndicated programs are pretty iffy, but if there's something good out there, we'll go after that, too.”
23 NEXSTAR BROADCASTING GROUP
2006 revenue: $197.70M
Number of stations: 32
Number of markets: 29
Percent of U.S. covered: 5.5%
Markets: 9-201. Largest markets include Washington, D.C./Hagerstown, Md. (9), and Harrisburg-Lancaster, Pa. (41). Nexstar owns duopolies in 14 markets and triopolies in three markets.
For next season, Nexstar Broadcasting's biggest play will be CBS Television's The Doctors. The show is slated for six markets including NBC affiliates KARK Little Rock, Ark., and KNWA Fort Smith-Fayetteville, Ark.
With Dr. Phil McGraw's backing and ability to give the show exposure, Senior VP Brian Jones says The Doctors has a strong shot at finding an audience. “It's a unique show using a lot of tried-and-true elements,” he says. “We looked at the show for every market where we had availability.”
Several Nexstar stations are picking up Warner Bros.' The Bonnie Hunt Show for daytime, including affiliates in Monroe, La., and Springfield, Mo.
Beyond the two marquee shows, Jones says his group is mostly secure with its syndicated lineup with long-term deals for “staples” like Judge Judy, Wheel of Fortune and Oprah.
Like other groups, Nexstar is making locally produced fare a top priority for coming years. The company bought a satellite production truck last year that enables stations to produce live events remotely. So far, its main use has been for stations to cover major sporting events that feature a local high school or university, such as the recent Cotton Bowl and Gator Bowl college football games. Jones expects more local specials next season.
“Our coverage has been in line with what you'd expect from a major market station,” he says. “It has been a huge success with advertisers and viewers.”
24 ENTRAVISION HOLDINGS
2006 revenue: $185.20M
Number of stations: 48
Number of markets: 24
Percent of U.S. covered: 6.95%
Markets: 7-197. The majority of Entravision stations are affiliates of Spanish-language network Univision, which owns a 14.9% stake in the company. It also owns 14 TeleFutura affiliates, one Telemundo affiliate and four stations that air either Home Shopping Network or Jewelry Television. Entravision owns one independent English-language, family-friendly outlet, WJAL Hagerstown, Md. (9), and one Fox affiliate, Class A station KXOF Laredo, Texas (188).
All of Entravision's stations but one carry Spanish-language programming, except in several instances of local marketing agreements and time brokerage pacts. In Laredo, Entravision owns a Fox affiliate, Class A station KXOF, which it purchased last March.
KXOF has just gotten its programming lineup settled. Because it doesn't air news, KXOF relies on syndicated programming, including first-run shows such as The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Tyra Banks, Maury and TMZ. It airs off-net such as Two and a Half Men, Family Guy and King of the Hill earlier in the day than most stations, and runs NBC Universal's Law & Order: Criminal Intent—syndication's only one-hour off-net strip—in access.
Hagerstown's WJAL also runs syndicated shows, such as Radar Entertainment's Jury Duty, Program Partners' Crosswords and lots of older off-net programming. Otherwise, the station mostly programs Christian and other family-friendly shows.
25 JOURNAL BROADCAST GROUP
2006 revenue: $172.68M
Number of stations: 11
Number of markets: 9
Percent of U.S. covered: 3%
Markets: 34-144. The group operates three ABCs—low-power station KSAW-LP is a satellite of KIVI Boise (113)—one CBS, three NBCs, two Fox and one MyNetworkTV affiliate. One duopoly: Green Bay, Wis. (70).
The Journal Broadcast Group has yet to reveal any deals for any of the major syndicated shows for 2008-09. But the company is making moves. Last fall, Journal agreed to buy Mirage Media's MyNetworkTV affiliate KPSE Palm Springs, Calif., which would give the company a second duopoly. Journal already owns KMIR, an NBC affiliate, in the market.
As more station groups look to produce their own programs, Journal is experimenting with Meredith's strip, Better, in three markets.
Journal stations WFTX Fort Myers, Fla., WGBA Green Bay, Wis., and WTMJ Milwaukee added the program in September, which is modeled after the 1980s newsmagazine PM Magazine with a mix of local and national content.