On Jan. 2, DuJuan McCoy’s Bayou City Broadcasting closed on WEVV Evansville. Days later, it was decided that WEVV, which scrapped its local news operation 14 years ago due to paltry ratings, would launch local news on the CBS-Fox hybrid. With just a couple of local TV voices in the market and the promotional might of two network affiliates, McCoy saw opportunity. “The platform to launch local news is there,” he said. “The Evansville market is real excited about it.”
Early in 2001, WEVV sacked its news staffers and replaced its 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts with reruns of Home Improvement and M*A*S*H. These days, the station is hiring around 20 staffers that the station says “will bring a new, fresh and dynamic product to the marketplace.”
While local TV news remains a mighty challenging business, with ratings points increasingly difficult to steal, various broadcasters are throwing their hats in the news ring. WBND South Bend launched a full operation in recent years. WYOU Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shuttered its newsroom in 2009; three years later, it reopened. “It broke my heart to do it,” said Dennis Thatcher, president of parent Mission Broadcasting, of the original move. “I am absolutely jazzed to be back in the news business.”
The second-wind news operations are both located in midsized markets, and both feature a CBS affiliation—likely the best tool available for the massive challenge of communicating a new news player to the community. While WEVV is a standalone station, WYOU benefits from an operating agreement with Nexstar’s WBRE; the two share a newsroom. WYOU simulcasts several newscasts with WBRE, while its noon and 7 p.m. shows are unique. Thatcher says he’d like to see all of WYOU’s newscasts be exclusive to the station.
Robert Bee, WYOU-WBRE VP and general manager, says network programs command loyalty in the giant markets, while station brands stand out in the smaller ones. “Clients and viewers love that they have their news back,” he said. “The station loyalty that exists in this industry is phenomenal.”
While consumers have scads of news and entertainment options available, there remain but a handful of good local entrants, notes Bee. “It’s the thing that makes us unique from the video jukeboxes,” he said.
Starting From Square One
Jeff Fisher, former director of sales at WEHT-WTVW Evansville, was named WEVV general manager Jan. 20. Warren Korff, former assignment editor at WEHT-WTVW, became the news director a few weeks later. “It is good to see Bayou City Broadcasting committed to serving the people of the Tri-State, and to giving viewers another voice for news coverage,” he said at the time.
McCoy estimates there’s $40 million in local TV revenue in the market, with over a third of that going to local news. With a “substantial” investment in the “44 News” operation—4½ hours a day on CBS and five more on Fox, with an early a.m. program shared by both—he says WEVV is well positioned to grab a piece. “It’s market No. 103; there’s room for a third voice,” he said. “When you have a high-rated prime and high-profile sports, it does not make any sense not to be.”
WTMJ TAPS WORLDNOW’S CHANNEL IN A BOX FOR DOT-TWO
As stations contemplate how best to program their secondary channels, Journal Broadcast Group’s WTMJ Milwaukee has partnered with Worldnow to debut WTMJ 4 Plus. The subchannel is powered by Worldnow’s Channel in a Box—a new cloud-based live-streaming service that stations can use to program their subchannels, mobile feeds or websites. The product “enables content owners to immediately broadcast live breaking news and severe weather and create an automated virtual control room,” said Worldnow in a statement.
WTMJ previously had Accuweather on its 4.2 channel. The station now airs its own weather, along with local news. Traffic and sports will be part of the mix too, and radio content may be as well. “This tool gives us the ability to do a lot more than a simple weather channel,” said Michael Gay, Journal VP of interactive media. “It’s exciting to think what it will look like in a year or two.”