WCJB, a legacy station in Gainesville, Fla., was losing news viewers and revenue three years ago. This May, its 11 o’clock news ratings was up 48% in adults 25-54. See how the ABC affiliate turned itself around.
WCJB, Gray’s ABC affiliate in Gainesville, Fla. (DMA 156), posted significant increases in ratings, according to Comscore, across its newscasts in the May sweep. The station’s 11 o’clock news ratings were up 48% from May 2019 in adults 25-54, for example. And the 6 o’clock newscast was up 37% in the same demo.
“In our view, the WCJB spring 2020 ratings are the culmination of a process that we started in 2017,” said Matt Hunter, WCJB’s creative services manager.
The station had been the legacy news station in the market, but in 2017, WCJB was losing news viewers, according to Alan Chatman, WCJB’s general manager.
“We were very profitable, but we were losing viewership and then eventually, it was starting to cost us revenues as well.”
Then came Gray, which purchased the station in 2017, and immediately made some changes in personnel, equipment and policy.
“We had to rebuild,” said Chatman.
Gray upped Chatman, who had been the sales director at the station for 23 years, to general manager. And the assistant news director, Jon Levy, was made news director. Matt Hunter, at WCJB for seven years, took over creative services.
“I refuse to believe that stations can’t grow their audience back if they do things in the right manner. And fortunately for us, Gray has provided us the resources to be able to do that,” Chatman said.
Once the management team was solidified, Gray asked them what they needed to do to stop viewer erosion. The list was long.
To start, hire better people, raise the pay scale, retain key employees, get everybody on staff to believe in their vision, which is, “we are your local station in every sense and fashion and that is in everything that we do,” Chatman said.
Digital was next.
“Gray gave us new digital resources,” said Levy, who reorganized the newsroom and the workflow to reach people that the station had lost, to get them back engaged with WCJB on air, online, on all its platforms.
Chatman opened up the lines of communication, and asked for input from department heads and managers by including them all at department head meetings.
“That happens at good stations.”
Speaking of communication, Hunter said being part of Gray suddenly gave him 100 or so other creative services directors and staff to consult, brainstorm and share ideas with, and even borrow equipment.
“We have a Facebook group and we share our promos with it. We share IMs like every single day. We have got an email group up.”
That collaboration led to better, more strategic use of the station’s on-air inventory.
“All these things just made me a much better marketer than I would have ever been on my own.”
That same exposure to the Gray network gave Levy new insights into running the newsroom. “It has given me resources to cherry-pick ideas, he said.
“The resources are there for me to be able to get answers to my questions. I’m able to contact people within hours of the station. It has been awesome. So that has been a huge game changer for us having that network in the newsroom.”
The station upped its commitment to the community non-profits and charities, earning the station a nod as the community station of the year by the Florida Association of Broadcasters.
WCJB partnered with the leading radio stations in town. “We promote each other,” Chatman said. “We join forces on community projects. It has been great.”
Since Gray bought the station, it has invested more than $500,000 in a new set, new studio cameras, upgraded weather system, a new website and other improvements to operations.
“We’ve managed to reengage lapsed viewers on the linear side,” said Hunter, “while surpassing all of our local competitors who had been ahead of us on digital platforms, and reaching a new audience in the process as well.”
WDIV, Graham Media Group’s NBC affiliate in Detroit, Michigan (DMA 14) needs an Assistant Director of Technology, a technically sophisticated manager with a history of innovative design, leadership, construction and implementation of industry leading Broadcast and IT practices. The Assistant Director of Technology will be an active hands-on manager working directly with the Director of Technology in overseeing a group of diverse Broadcast Engineers and IT professionals. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.