Archive for May 2007

Ratings to Die For and Why Some Investment Groups Like the Bottom Line of TV Stations

May 31, 2007

There’s nothing like a walk down memory lane and my good friend and former co-worker Jack Church recently led me down a path I hadn’t visited in a while. Jack, who is a natural born salesman, used to do weather. Jack has worked in a number of markets and knows people in just about every market. He left the glamorous (snort) and high paying (chuckle) world of broadcast news for a real job a few years back but that’s a story for another time. Jack was reminding me of when he and I worked for WEVU-TV, the ABC affiliate in Fort Myers, FL. Jack who stays in touch with the former station manager and apparently that person had some old ratings books from back in the day in 1987-88. Understand at the time that the Ft. Myers/Naples area had a huge cable penetration. WEVU’s early news pulled in something like an 13 rating. What station wouldn’t kill for that kind of number these days. Granted, the CBS affiliate (WINK) pulled something like a 40 rating and the NBC affiliate (WBBH) had a 30-rating. But how times have changed thanks to satellite and cable channels drawing away the audience. Nowadays people would be cheering over numbers we used to hang our heads about.Yes, there were times when TV and radio stations were considered by many to be “licenses to print money.” Those days may be past but a TV station has to be pretty dog-gone bad not to make money and lots of it. As you have read here from such sources as “The GM” and other fine contributors, the profit margin is still there, just somewhat diminished from the glory days. With that in mind, I received this from Jack (ever the salesman) who thought I’d find it interesting. The source is tv newsday. As Jack pointed out, only two of the groups show a loss in revenue. I’ll let you see which groups those are.

TOP 50 TV STATION GROUPS

Rank TV Group Revenue (000) % chg.

2006 2005 2006 2005

 

1 1 Fox $2,440,040 $2,298,600 6.17

2 2 CBS 1,914,575 1,852,600 3.35

3 3 NBC 1,827,275 1,786,550 2.28

4 5 ABC 1,237,550 1,154,800 7.17

5 4 Tribune 1,099,875 1,176,800 -6.54

6 6 Gannett 1,023,750 853,875 19.89

7 7 Hearst-Argyle 846,625 762,175 11.08

8 8 Belo 796,925 723,600 10.13

9 10 Univision 739,925 626,775 18.05

10 11 Cox 648,900 619,275 4.78

11 9 Raycom 629,275 702,650 -10.44

12 12 Sinclair 616,950 591,050 4.38

13 13 LIN 518,600 457,950 13.24

14 18 Media General 440,625 320,675 37.41

15 15 E.W. Scripps 439,250 373,500 17.60

16 14 Post-Newsweek 424,150 377,500 12.36

17 19 Clear Channel 362,375 314,225 15.32

18 16 Meredith 358,900 326,850 9.81

19 17 Gray 354,900 324,150 9.49

20 21 Sunbeam 256,200 218,375 17.32

21 20 Young 232,875 218,700 6.48

22 22 Allbritton 226,975 206,800 9.76

23 23 Nexstar 192,875 178,000 8.36

24 26 Entravision 183,675 135,875 35.18

25 24 Local TV 170,025 157,250 8.12

26 25 Journal 151,675 144,100 5.26

27 29 Freedom 142,500 124,625 14.34

28 27 Hubbard 140,700 130,250 8.02

29 28 McGraw-Hill 138,050 129,100 6.93

30 38 Granite 136,175 82,400 65.26

31 50 Barrington 133,150 31,875 317.73

32 31 Fisher 130,225 114,875 13.36

33 32 Cordillera 124,350 102,150 21.73

34 30 Dispatch 123,350 116,575 5.81

35 37 Landmark 100,500 82,800 21.38

36 35 Cunningham 92,875 87,275 6.42

37 34 Capitol 92,500 88,950 3.99

38 36 Lincoln 92,100 85,625 7.56

39 39 Sunbelt 90,200 76,000 18.68

40 42 Pappas 89,625 69,475 29.00

41 43 Quincy 87,900 65,325 34.56

42 33 Ion Media 80,825 99,675 -18.91

43 49 Schurz 80,100 53,875 48.68

44 40 Montecito 76,400 73,475 3.98

45 41 Weigel 75,175 69,700 7.86

46 45 Griffin 70,325 58,300 20.63

47 44 Bahakel 66,050 59,925 10.22

48 48 Mission 64,850 56,600 14.58

49 46 Midwest 64,000 58,000 10.34

50 47 CCA 61,000 61,000 7.06

 

Source: BIA Financial Network


Copyright 2007 TV Newsday, Inc. All rights reserved.This article can be found online at: http://www.tvnewsday.com/articles/2007/05/29/daily.12/.
Please visit http://www.tvnewsday.com/ for more on this and other breaking news concerning the TV broadcasting industry.
Okay, there is some problem with trying to copy and paste the rankings over from the excel spreadsheet to this blog post and nothing lines up. For those trying to decipher what I posted, the first column is the 2006 ranking, the second is the 2005 ranking, the third is the amount of money earned in 2006 and the 4th is the amount of money earned in 2005. The final column is the amount of change in percentage. Sorry about that chief.

Perhaps the fact that Raycom is one of those two groups with negative numbers is why they are supposedly asking for money from cable companies to carrying their signal. I’m still waiting on someone to fill me in on that.

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WMC’s Loss is WHBQ’s Gain, That Dave Brown is One Smooth Operator and Can Someone Tell Me About This Raycom Thing?

May 29, 2007

Congratulations to Darrell Phillips the Internet Guy for WMC who will now call Fox 13 home. His departure was announced last week by the News Director at AC5. IMHO, DP really made the blog coverage of the John Ford Trial sing. HBQ scored bigtime getting him to come over. I don’t know the particulars about his departure although some question the wording from “TR the ND” who stated she had “mixed emotions” about his leaving. It was suggested that perhaps TR really wanted him to leave. Perhaps there is something there, perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps TR didn’t like the “cut of his jib” or perhaps Fox 13 made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Whatever the reasons, DP promises to be a great asset to Fox 13 and WMC will get somebody else to work the internet for their shop.

Speaking of WMC’s shop, a great article in the Commercial Appeal on the 30 years of Dave Brown, weatherman extraordinaire. It’s hard to find weather guys who aren’t likeable (I have found a couple over the years who were apparently personality donors but that’s a topic for another time) since having a pleasant personality is a big draw for doing the weather and attracting an audience. Dave Brown has plenty of both and comes off these days at the grandfatherly type who is there to tell you that the weather is good or that it is bad. I’ve had the fortune to cross paths with Dave on a number of occasions, usually at the church where my mother attends in East Memphis. Dave always speaks to me and is one of those people (Marybeth Conley at WREG is another) who appears to be as genuine in person as on the air. It’s a gift. It doesn’t hurt that Dave announced “wrasslin” for years here in the MidSouth. No wonder he’s so well liked. I bet there are some folks out there saying “That Dave Brown does the weather and wrasslin, heck I wish he’d run for mayor. I’d vote for him! ” Actually according to the article in the CA, DAve DID consider politics as a career. I’m glad to see he chose weather although I would bet some folks at the competition wish he would leave TV news and run for office. That would give them some breathing room. Congrats Dave.

And I guess I’m just having a Raycom kind of day, but I got this off the Watercooler section of Shoptalk/TVSpy.   I will post the message and let someone else tell me what this is all about and if it’s happening in Memphis. Here it is:

If you work for Raycom, brace yourself for angry e-mails and calls. The company apparently is asking cable systems for a fee to carry its broadcast stations. And there may be a drop-dead date, to avoid a signal blackout.

There’s one suburban cable company which already sent a mass mailing to its customers, urging them to call the Raycom station and complain about it. They did, and it’s apparently made for one REAL long holiday weekend at that station.

So, if anybody has the skinny on this, let me know.

 

Farewell to an Old News Hound and Friend & The Latest Standing in the Horse Race of Memphis TV News

May 24, 2007

Before I get to the local ratings numbers, a note about a guy you could really describe as a news hound in Memphis.   The name: Ron Michaels Hughes although most of us only knew him as Ron Michaels.  I met him not long after I came to Memphis back in 1989 when I attended what seemed back then as frequent parties where TV, Radio and other misfits from normal society would gather to talk and drink beer.  Ron, who has been described as one of the pioneers of hard rock music on FM radio in Memphis later switched to TV news where he served as assignment editor for WMC-TV.  He was a little guy who loved a big story and if it happened in Memphis, Ron knew about it.  He hated to get beat on a story but he liked the competition.  He told me he didn’t like the direction he saw local TV news going and often told me he longed for the good old days when consultants played less of a role in the newsroom and reporters actually went out and covered what he considered real news.

Two weeks ago today, I received an email from Ron.  I’m sharing this with you now.  The only thing I did was try to enlarge the typeface and that may add some funky characters to his post.  Please overlook them:

Feel free to use my post any way you see fit. Caution: There is a 

typo in there which I  caught when I re-read it. Use your talented 

producer abilities and see if you can find it. I think I said "and" 

and meant to say "an", or vice versa. When I went to correct it 

myself, I couldn't find the email again.

Always good to hear from you and miss our going away party 

discussions at Jeff Wood's house. I pretty much home bound now 

because of my lung problems but they can't kill me but I'm getting 

some good drugs. If I felt like it, I would love to do a daily news 

review blog where I would be highly critical of the daily newspaper 

and TV news. What have I got to lose? i.e. If the media would spend 

as much time on MLGW coverage as they do on crime coverage wouldn't 

things be a lot better for all these poor and elderly people who are 

forced to freeze in the winter  and burn  to death in the summer? 

That's just one that burns my ass every day.

Your pal,

Ron

Ron suffered from poor health when I first met him and never really recovered.  Still he hung on for almost 18 years from the time I first had the chance to talk with him.  I would run into him on occasion at Alex’s Tavern on Jackson.  Ron Michaels  died this past Sunday at his home.  I feel my life is much richer for having known him. Goodbye Ron, you will be missed.

Ron always liked a good scramble for news and I’ve always loved a good horse race. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m from Kentucky.   A horse race is what we have in the Bluff City.  According to some numbers shared with me on the previous post and now being shared with you here, this is what the initial figures look like.  Yes, yes, I know the demographics still have to come out and that will take about two weeks and that’s what advertisers want to see.  But what I have is what I have and it’s listed below.  It’s extremely close in the mornings with WREG winning and Fox 13 posting better numbers at 5am than Action News 5.  WMC and Fox 13 swap positions at 6am.  WREG will probably always win at noon as long as they have the Young and Restless as a lead-in.  WMC wins by better than a point at 5 & 6 and it appears that WMC has retaken the lead at 10.  We’ll have to see how all this shakes out but it appears that a new round of promos should be hitting the airwaves soon.

5am:   WREG 4.1  WMC 3.3  WHBQ 3.8
6am:   WREG 6.7  WMC 6.0  WHBQ 5.5
Noon:  WREG 7.9  WMC 5.0
5pm:   WREG 8.4   WMC 9.7
6pm:   WREG 9.0   WMC 10.4
10pm  WREG 10.8*   WMC  11.8


There's an asterik next to the WREG 10pm number because the station
retitled the second 15 minutes of at least 5 newscasts.   It was a very
tight book.

 

Staging The News and Can Anybody Give Me An Idea What the Ratings Numbers Look Like in the Bluff City?

May 23, 2007

In Wednesday’s  Shoptalk, the newspaper in Orlando takes to task the TV stations in that Florida city for staging  the news.  Here’s an excerpt: All the stations in town picked up on the story about a 9-year-old boy who called 911 when his mother fell unconscious on the floor. But when area stations showed the “first meeting” between the Alex Swee and 911 dispatcher Matt Nicotra — it was actually staged for two local stations who showed up late.According to the Orlando Sentinel, “crews from WESH-Channel 2 and WFTV-Channel 9 were on time to film the exchange of hugs when Alex and his mom met Nicotra for the first time. But WOFL-Channel 35 showed up late and asked the three to do it all over again so they could tape it. Then in the middle of the second ‘first’ meeting, a WKMG-Channel 6 crew arrived and asked the three, ‘Can you do it one more time?’ “

When I first got into the news business back in the day when I was brimming over with youthful enthusiasm and idealism, I was determined I would never, ever stage anything for a news story.  I had read a policy guideline from ABC News about what reporters and videographers could and could not do and if it was good enough for ABC News, it was good enough for me.  Then the realities of covering local TV news became evident.  Due to scheduling problems, crews would arrive late or have to leave early.  Later, when those in charge decided that reporters should be turning multiple packages, one news director told me to get the people to re-enact when necessary, get what we needed and move on.  It was at that point I realized that news had evolved from an important public service to a business.
As more newscasts were created to generate more dollars, more product was needed to fill those newscasts.  Quality was good if you could get it but quantity was the bottom line.  Some might argue about what constitutes staging.  Others don’t care especially if doing some so-called staging speeds up the story so they can grab lunch before the desk calls them again to see if they can cover the daily fire or auto accident.  When you watch news, one can generally tell if something has been staged.  Not always, but generally speaking you can.  Is it a bad thing?  Not to me, not anymore.  I’ve been there and dealt with what the field crews have to deal with and if it means having something to fill a slot in a newscast and not having those at the office bitching and moaning at you, that’s the way it is.  In the newsroom, they generally don’t care how you got the pictures as long as you got them and that nobody is going to sue you for getting the the video.  Heck, for all I know they may have “staging” classes in college along with the other things they teach those aspiring to be on TV.  In the meantime, just go back to the office down the hallway, wait five seconds, walk out again and walk toward the camera and go past it and please, don’t look at the camera as you go by.

I think I’ve become something of a leper.  I used to have folks contacting me with updates on the ratings numbers from the Memphis market.  I’d get the breakdown of how things have been looking and made it a point to never reveal any sources.  By now, I fully expected to hear how close the book was for WHBQ, WMC and WREG, especially in the morning battles and those in the evening.  So far, Zip, Nada, Nothing.  I know we’re still a few weeks out before the official numbers are released but if anyone has anything to share, please do.  I know the numbers between WMC and WREG were really tight back in February and some at AN5 thought they might retake the lead this book, especially with new managers in place.  We’ll see.

And one additional note.  I got a question in  the previous post about some reporters leaving WREG.  I haven’t heard anything.  Anyone got the scoop on that?

Getting the Money Shot on TV News and Yet Another Broadcast Group Could Be On the Block

May 17, 2007

Just why did so many people watch Mike Wallace and the 60-Minutes crew barge in to confront the bad guys or at least those with questionable motives?  Why do so many people like to watch the local TV consumer or I-Team reporter who gets in the face of someone for some answers?  IMHO, it’s not so much that the viewer wants to see justice.  Yah, some probably do.  I think many want to see if the reporter or camera guy is going to get his clock cleaned by some irate person.  I will admit I never had the where-with-all to get into somebody’s face.  I’ve been threatened and had someone show up at my office and suggest rather strongly that I would face bodily harm if a story aired.  That’s not the sort of thing that gives me the kind of adrenalin rush I like.   But the in-your-face stuff goes on and some TV reporters may be under the impression that with a camera there to record things, nobody will do anything stupid, especially those who work for the taxpayers.  Reporters for WXYZ-TV in Detroit found that if you put enough pressure on someone they will do something really stupid.  Check out this video of the mayor of Detroit grabbing the reporter’s microphone and throwing it down the hallway.  Yes, they were badgering the mayor for some legitimate answers and the mayor comes off looking like he’s out of control.  If Hizzoner’s bodyguard hadn’t been distracted with the other reporter, this would have never happened.  But it did and the mayor looks bad and the reporter looks good.  It also sets the scene for the next confrontation.  Stay tuned for that.  By the way, if you don’t think that harm can come to a reporter or photographer, revisit the video of those covering the recent police action at the hispanic protest in Los Angeles.

And a tip of the hat to SP for sharing this tidbit from Nexstar Broadcasting.  It seems they too may be looking for a new owner.  See what the NYTimes and Clear Channel started. Here’s the article:

NEXSTAR CONSIDERING SALE, OTHER OPTIONS

TVNEWSDAY, May. 17, 7:16 AM ET

The TV group hires Goldman, Sachs to develop a list of “strategic alternatives” for it to consider.

By Staff

 

Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced this morning that “the board of directors of the company has decided to engage Goldman, Sachs & Co. to assist the company in reviewing strategic alternatives including, but not limited to the sale of the company.”

 

The company said that it does not intend to comment further publicly with respect to this process until its completion.

Although publicly traded, Nexstar is controlled by a private equity fund, ABRY Partners headed by Chairman Andrew Banks and President Royce Yudkoff. According to Nexstar’s 2006 annual report, ABRY owns 58.6% of economic interest in the company or 90.1% of the voting interest.

Like other publicly traded TV station groups, Nexstar has enjoyed a big run up on its stock price. The price has more than tripled in the past year, hitting a high of $12.65 in late April. But the price has sagged following the release of its first quarter results. It closed a $10.89 yesterday.

 

You Can Now Send Weatherman Dave Brown Anywhere You Want

May 15, 2007

I like a clever promotion and WMC-TV in Memphis has one with long time weather guy Dave Brown. He’s about to celebrate 30-years as a TV weatherguy. (I’m not sure if that is total years or just at Action News 5). I received a link to an e-card last week and received another one from a reformed news guy and former co-worker, DJ. This link will take you to what looks like a bobble-head Dave Brown and by clicking on one of the five buttons , it will say a phrase long-time viewers have come to know and expect from Mr. Brown. I’m waiting for some clever person to create a similar site where Dave or perhaps other weather folks from the greater Memphis area are spouting phrases such as “A THUNDERSTORM IS APPROACHING, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, or MY GOD, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN APPROACHING, or even CAN ANYONE HELP ME FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET HBO ON OUR ONE TRILLION WATT SUPERDOOPER GONAD VIPER RADAR!” (If I knew how to create something in “Flash” I would have already done it. ) Anyway, congratulations to Dave Brown on his anniversary. I think the days of a long-time weather person in one market are becoming quite rare and wouldn’t be surprised to see in the near future that a 20-year stint is considered a long time at one place.

DJ also shared with me something else from News Blues. It seems another private equity firm is buying television stations, following in the footsteps of Oak Hill which bought the NYTimes stations. Here is the story from News Blues.

The private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which yesterday agreed to pay $7.4 billion for Chrysler, is the same company that paid $185 million in February to purchase seven TV stations from CBS, including KUTV-2-CBS in Salt Lake City (Market #35) and KEYE-42-CBS in Austin (Market #52).

Final FCC approval of that sale is still pending, but the stations are being managed in the interim under a local marketing agreement. Veteran TV manager Dick Reingold, former president and general manager of Gannett’s WUSA-9-CBS in D.C., helped put the deal together for Cerberus and is likely to play a major role in management of the new group.

Cerberus is well known for slashing costs and cutting staff in order to maximize investor profit.

Here’s the kicker. In Greek mythology, Cerberus (“demon of the pit”) was the hound of Hades, a monstrous three-headed dog (sometimes said to have 50 or 100 heads) with a snake for a tail; he was also seen with a dragons tail and serpentine mane.

Cerberus guarded the gate to Hades and ensured that spirits of the dead could enter, but none could exit.

 

So, does that sound like a match made for operating a TV station? You betcha.

It Looks Like a War Zone and It Sounded Like a Freight Train!

May 10, 2007

It’s time to pull out the old soapbox and rant.  First let me say that if anyone doubts the power of a tornado then look at the video out of Greensburg, Kansas.  Up until the storm pretty much wiped out this town,  Greensburg was known as the place with the world’s largest hand dug well and the home of a one thousand pound pallasite meteorite. Since the storm, it is now the place that “looks like a war zone”.  It must be true because every local TV reporter that I’ve seen featured on The Weather Channel, CNN and MSNBC has referred to it at some point in time as “looking like a war zone”.  I guess they all skipped class after that first day of “Creative Writing and Use of Cliches’ for TV news”.  I’m not without guilt here.  I’ve used that term before and I’ve never been to a war zone. And it may be splitting hairs but if I used it, I tried to at least attribute it to someone who had said it.  Not these reporters breathlessly describing it as such.  It just seems to have been beaten into the ground with a sledge hammer on this particular story.  I expect to hear that in soundbites from the local townspeople along with their exclamations about the twister “sounding like a freight train” as it approached.  (Has anyone ever said that an approaching freight train sounds like a tornado?)  A fellow blogger currently working in the news business suggested that perhaps reporters describe the aftermath of a bad storm something along the lines of “it looks like what’s left after a weekend long flea market”.  Hey, at least it shows original and creative thinking.  Yes, it’s also slightly warped but if truth be told, so are many people in the TV news business.  Some will actually admit it.

Shifting gears, I got an email from a person wondering how the weather team at WREG avoided any cuts after the new owners took over the NYTimes group.  First let me say it was shared with me that one of the five people is a part-timer and that she fills in only as needed to help cover for those on vacation or sick.   I still have to admit I’m surprised that someone didn’t get the boot there.  I’m glad to see that they didn’t because I consider everyone in the department to be a friend and I hate to see any of them face the ax.  Are the cuts really over? I wouldn’t bet the farm just yet.

And speaking of the NYTimes cuts, the timing couldn’t have come at a worse time IMHO. There’s nothing like trying to rally the troops and get them pumped up for a major book and then start letting people go as the book gets started.  It would seem to prompt many if not most to lose their focus at a time when you want everyone to stay with their eyes on the prize.  This is not the first time that something like this has happened to a TV station approaching a book.  It happened just recently at WKRN in Nashville with the station losing its News Director last week and that comes on the heels of the GM there stepping down.  And wasn’t it just last year that both the ND and the GM were let go at WHNT in Huntsville as they were going into a book.  Maybe it’s just me but it seems like the timing could be improved.