TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Price Colman set out this summer to see first hand how the economy and the fundamental changes in the media business were affecting four stations in the East, off the coast and outside the Top 25. Today, he reports on WWNY, a family-owned CBS affiliate in a small upstate New York market (DMA 177) that has had to face up to job and salary cuts just as the many debt-ridden stations in larger markets have. Tomorrow, Colman profiles WHP Harrisburg, Pa.
Welcome to the TVNewsCheck DMA Tour 2009, a rolling trek through four broadcast TV markets from upstate New York to East Tennessee with a look at stations in those markets and what they’re doing to deal with tough economic times.
Contributing Editor Price Colman started his journey at WWNY in Watertown, NY., (DMA 177) and then headed south in his RV on Interstate 81, an 846-mile highway that mostly parallels the Appalachian Mountains.
After visiting WHP in Harrisburg, Pa. (DMA 39), he swung east over the mountains to Raleigh, N.C. (DMA 26) and WRAL. Then, following the sun, it was on to WVLT in Knoxville, Tenn., (DMA 59).
At each of the stations, Colman encountered managers showing no signs of quitting.
Mixing years of experience with local savvy, innovative thinking and maybe a dash of desperation, each manager is finding ways to survive the downturn and build a solid foundation for the uncertain future.
One thing is clear: Along the eastern continental divide, broadcast TV is far from done.
HARD TIMES, HARD DECISIONS
It’s sunny and hot, a near perfect blue sky day in Sackets Harbor, N.Y., with just enough breeze blowing in off Lake Ontario to keep things comfortable.
Cathy Pircsuk, general manager of WWNY, the CBS affiliate in nearby Watertown, is enjoying a relaxed lunch alfresco with station sales manager Patrick Powers and a guest at Tin Pan Galley.
Looking at the busy restaurant, car and foot traffic in Sackets Harbor, the recession gripping the region and the country seems as distant as the lake’s horizon line. But it’s something that’s been in the front of Pircsuk’s mind for more than a year.
“Little did we know last summer was the good old days,” she says. “What killed us was automotive.”