Needs a Tune-Up

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Sunrise Slugfest

While Toledo, Ohio, is not as obviously tied to the auto industry as neighboring Detroit, cars do steer the economy in the Nielsen’s 70th largest market. But car sales are slowing, affecting jobs at the local Jeep and General Motors plants, as well as automobile advertising on TV. Larger TV markets are experiencing similar challenges with auto advertising, but midsize cities like Toledo, with smaller advertising bases and less national-ad money, have been harder hit.

TV stations are coming off a lucrative 2004, when $10 million in political-ad money poured in. Last year, local broadcasters collected $61.7 million in gross revenue, according to BIA Financial. This year, stations don’t have that election-year money, times are tight, and TV advertising is feeling the fallout. “Everyone is looking for other streams of revenue, like the Internet,” says Ray Maselli, VP/GM of Fox affiliate WUPW.

CBS affiliate WTOL is No. 1 in total day and in early-evening and late news. It also has the best syndicated fare.

Last year, WUPW added a 4 p.m. newscast, the only one in that time slot. But it is up against tough competition: WTOL runs The Oprah Winfrey Show, and ABC O&O WTVG airs Ellen.

WTVG recently added a half-hour of news at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays. The newscast follows This Week With George Stephanopoulos and WTVG’s Carty & Company, the station’s public-affairs program. “The time period seemed ripe,” says President/GM David Zamichow, “and we already had a crew on hand.”

In tornado-prone Northwest Ohio, NBC affiliate WNWO calls itself “Toledo’s weather station” and begins each newscast with the local forecast. Last month on one of its digital channels, WNWO debuted its version of 24/7 weather service NBC Weather Plus. In June, new music-video channel The Tube will debut on another digital channel. Buckeye Cable, the market’s major operator, offers Weather Plus as part of its digital-cable package and is considering adding The Tube.

The local WB affiliate WTO5 is a cable-only outlet available to 11 of the market’s 13 counties. The UPN affiliate WNGT is a low-power UHF station.

Toledo is still a diary market, making sweeps even more important. But weather may be the spoiler. The region is enjoying a mild May, and warmer weather draws viewers outdoors. Says WNWO VP/GM Rick Lipps, “From a ratings perspective, we could use some of those dreary, cold, sit-by-the-TV days.”

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