It’s Not the Size But What You Do With It That’s Important & Another TV Group Faces Financial Issues

Some people will tell you size is not important but the bigger it is, the more bragging you will hear.  I’m talking about TV market ranking folks.  And the latest market rankings show that Memphis has slipped again, this time from #48 to #50. There was a time when it was the largest market in the (then NYTimes Broadcast Group) now Local TV stable of stations.  It was somewhere in the low 40s.  It had sister stations in Oklahoma City and Norfolk, VA right there with it.  Those markets are still in the low 40s.  Memphis is hemorrhaging people pretty fast to be dropping as it is.  Having said that, market size does not necessarily denote quality.  I’ve worked in small to medium sized markets I’ve found there are some small markets that acted like small market operations while other small market operations were head and shoulders above some of their bigger market cousins. I started out at WBBJ in Jackson, TN when I think it was about a 190 market.  When I was there, it ran like it was in an even smaller market.  The ranking is #173.  I haven’t seen their product lately so I can’t tell you anything about it but it could only go up since I worked there.  (Case in point: when I was there we had only one field camera for the entire newsroom including sports and we had one editor for the entire station.  Sports would borrow the production camera on Monday and shoot all the sports stories for the week on Monday.  Nuff said there.) At the same time KAIT in nearby Jonesboro, AR was about the same size market (it’s now #181)  and was head and shoulders above WBBJ in equipment and production values.  KFVS in Cape Girardeau. MO was my next stop (now #78 in a hyphenated market). It had generally good equipment and the people to get things done.  It was a good place to work and there was steady competition from nearby WPSD in Paducah while not so much from WSIL in Harrisburg, IL.  I traveled next to Tallahassee, FL (now #106) where I worked for WTXL.  That station at the time didn’t have great equipment and was up against a powerhouse station WCTV which had a lot of money and a lot of people.  Ft Myers was my next stop (now a #62 market) and at the time it was in the high 80s or low 90s I think.  Jack, you’ll have to help me out on this one.  There was some good TV being produced in that market.  After that, I ended up in Memphis where the product and equipment at WREG was good IMHO.  So size really doesn’t matter if you compare what you do with it (your news product that is) and not just measure your market size.  Oh sure, there are people who will brag that they are in a top 20 or 30 market but I’ve seen some real crap come out of those markets and some of that stuff, well, I wouldn’t brag about it for sure.  Moving on.

I see yet another broadcast/newspaper group has fallen on hard times.  Freedom Communications of Irving, California, which owns eight TV stations and a number of newspapers was supposed to announce it was filing for bankruptcy.  That’s a shame because it has some good TV operations in its stable including WTVC in Chattanooga and WPEC in West Palm Beach, FL (both considered strong stations).  I don’t know what this means to the stations involved but I guess if the price is right, maybe Oak Hill might come a-courting.  We’ll wait and see.

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10 Comments on “It’s Not the Size But What You Do With It That’s Important & Another TV Group Faces Financial Issues”

  1. Memphis / Tupelo TV viewer Says:

    Equipment makes a difference. WTVA has replaced all its antiquated equipment. It is weird to see an HD newscast in such a small market. Most of their syndicated show are broadcast in HD as well (Jeopardy, Wheel, Dr. Phil, and Oprah).

    For the first time ever, it looks like WTVA has better “toys” than WMC or WREG.

  2. Joe, you’re 100% correct about market size. The most important factors that indicate a station’s quality is the ownership and the manner in which the news department is run. There are stations in top 25 markets that are bumbling jokes, yet I’ve seen stations in the lower 130s that operate like network O & O’s. I was once one of those people who thought “size mattered” as far as quality went.

    Some folks still think bigger equals better; people have left photog-reporter teams in the lower 100s to be one-man-bands in the top 25; it’s puzzling. It’s a quality product and talent that gets you ahead, not a market number.

  3. ready camera one, take two Says:

    There’s even a huge product difference between Memphis and Little Rock. The LR market has always had exceptional production values among their stations (with the exception of ch.11). When I came to work here 30 years ago I couldn’t believe the difference. Memphis was pretty bush league. It has gotten better although not exactly a cutting edge market. On a recent stop at the Union Avenue broadcast facility I was amazed, actually dumbfounded that they were still using studio equipment that was already old when I began working there.
    There’s a long running debate as to whether production elements are really that important to a newscast. Some say that you could put Joe Birch in a folding chair in front of a black curtain and do just as well.
    Others say that the fireworks and whiz-bang are the eye candy that sells it. If it looks good it must be good.

  4. Jack Church Says:

    Joe, I had a lot of fun working at WBBJ but I can still remember that even though I was on the air my parents would apologize for not watching because they would turn the rotor so they could get WPSD, they said it was simply a better product. Boy that hurt, but honesty always ran first in my family. We have some wild stories from that place that nobody would ever believe. However, I’ve seen the product in the past year and it is first rate for the market size and the turnover is nothing like it was when we there. When talking market sizes I can tell you that while working in the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara and Bakersfield markets the product look was far better than market 110 or so. A lot had to do with the fact you had the nations number two market, Los Angeles piped in on cable and you had to have a good product or absolutely no one would be watching. Finally, both WTVA in Tupelo and WCBI in Columbus, MS have pretty good products and I’m proud to say I sold them both automation systems! Feels good to help the greater cause. By the way, when are you going to post our now infamous WBBJ news promo on your website?? It is a classic!

  5. joelarkins Says:

    I’ve got to dig that little gem up. Remember, the station wouldn’t spring for a music package and decided instead to just use some of the soundtrack from the movie “Electric Horseman” starring Robert Redford. I still chuckle over that one. I’ll keep you posted on my progress of finding that “promo”.

  6. DocPepper Says:

    There has been a fight for market size. WBBJ, KAIT, WTVA, and WABG. Look at The Jackson, TN market. WJKT, (formerly clear Channel and now Newport??) switched from CW to Fox. That drew viewers from 13. WBBJ fought for Gobson C Ounty and two other counties to be in their broadcast area. This removes DSS/Dish subscribers form Memphis and keeps heads in 2-3-4 countirs from being counted in Memphis Market. WHat surprises me is that Memphis lets it happen. The HD reduced distance to about 75 miles, ansd that limits Memphis coverage. Charter Cable has been removing multiple network stations. THat hurt memphis as well.

  7. Lew Says:

    WBBJ does put out a much better product now than it did then, and does a pretty good job of covering their core counties in West Tennessee.

  8. JD Says:

    Hey Joe!
    Found this on the Mediaverse blog. Somebody is annoyed!

    Q: What is the difference between an Enzyte Commercial, Memphis Mayoral televised debates, and a disheveld Larry Enis shilling used cars on saturday morning?

    September 19, 2009 8:43 AM

  9. Nashville is now ranked #29 TV market up one spot from the previous #30 slot.

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