This is the kind of story that epitomizes what this Market Share blog is all about — a success story resulting from a marketing plan that showcases experienced people at a local TV news operation. This should inspire everyone who works at a No. 2- or No. 3-rated local news operation that wants to be […]
This should inspire everyone who works at a No. 2- or No. 3-rated local news operation that wants to be the top choice for local news in their market.
After every sweeps period, I get a lot of press releases from local station’s touting their performances in the ratings. Over the years, I’ve replied to those stations asking for context, examples, a narrative, that documents how the station believes it has achieved its successes.
WTVO is Rockford’s ABC affiliate owned by Mission Broadcasting but operated by Nexstar, which owns WQRF, the Fox affiliate in the market.
“Your newscasts have been in third place for as long as anyone can remember,” wrote Anderson.
“Worse, you face not one but two competitors battling it out for first amongst themselves, both with long traditions of news leadership in the market. How does a station like that not only become competitive, but four years later, win every competitive evening newscast time period in the November 2016 ratings period?”
According to the ratings service ComScore (formerly known as Rentrak), WTVO had more viewers for its 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts Monday-Friday during November than its competitors.
Since ComScore began monitoring the Rockford market in 2012, WTVO’s share of news viewership has grown by nearly 80% at 5 p.m., nearly 60% at 6 p.m. and nearly 25% at 10 p.m.
“We’ve been No. 1 in news at 5 p.m. for some time now, but to win not just the 5 p.m., but the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. as well, establishes us as the clear television news leader in the Rockford market,” said Kelly Lattimer, WQRF’s general manager.
In addition, the 9 o’clock news on WQRF has also seen nearly a 50% increase in share of viewership since 2012.
How did they do it?
“We promoted the benefits we already had while persistently working to build more,” said Anderson.
“That meant latching on to a Nexstar initiative which focused on localism. The stations’ More Local campaign started with a simple premise that as a ABC/Fox combo, we were doing more local news every day than anyone else in the market,” said Anderson.
“It then expanded to the experience of the anchors — news anchor Mimi Murphy, with more than 20 years’ experience in the market, and sports anchor, Scott Leber, who has been with WTVO for 27 years.”
That’s a lot of stability in front of the camera in any market, but when WTVO lost its veteran news anchor, Nick Toma, to another station in the Nexstar family, WTVO replaced him with Eric Wilson, a popular news anchor with more than 20 experience covering Rockford news.
The station then promoted Candice King to chief meteorologist and moved her to its evening newscasts.
The team was in place, representing more than 75 years combined experience covering news and weather in the Rockford area.
“Both Eric and I have worked at other No. 1 stations in Rockford,” said Murphy, “but I’ve never been so excited to be in first place working with such a great team of journalists.”
According to Anderson, “More Local” morphed into “Home” as the station highlighted its anchor team’s hometown roots.
“I would love to tell you there was one secret to our success,” said Anderson.
“I think it was more that we had a plan, committed to the plan, better promoted the plan and looked for every opportunity to build upon the plan. Even a little thing like naming our newscasts ‘Local’ (for example, Eyewitness News Local at 10:00) was a mindset that helped keep us on point.”
“Our newscasts have been named the best in Illinois in the medium-market division by the Illinois Broadcaster’s Association for two years in a row now,” said Lattimer.
“I believe we are seeing across-the-board ratings growth because viewers are recognizing what our colleagues have, and that is that both WTVO and WQRF deliver high-quality newscasts with information they want from people they know and trust.”
High-quality news you trust from people you have known for years. Sounds like a winning combination in Rockford.