Gray Television’s CBS affiliate WVLT is fighting the downsized ad climate by adopting a strategy that emphasizes sports and, according to General Manager Chris Baker, it’s proven a winner in good times and in bad. When businesses, particularly in the automotive sector, clamped down on ad spending, WVLT’s sports programming was a lever to pry loose some dollars. But the station’s new revenue solutions reach beyond sports to local programming and several new media initiatives. This is the fourth and final installment of TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Price Colman’s Eastern road trip discovering how the economy and the fundamental changes in the media business are affecting four stations outside the top 25 markets.
Welcome to Part IV of TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Price Colman’s DMA Tour 2009, a rolling trek through four broadcast TV markets in the Eastern U.S. to discover what stations are doing to deal with tough economic times. In the first three installments last week, Colman visited WWNY Watertown, N.Y. (DMA 177), WHP Harrisburg, Pa. (DMA 39) and WRAL Raleigh, N.C. (DMA 26). Today, the road ends at WVLT Knoxville, Tenn. (DMA 59).
WVLT: SPORTS STARS IN KNOXVILLE
Not far from Knoxville, along the ridges along the Tennessee River, smoke drifts up from wood cook stoves of the homes there.
Just a few miles away, a plume of steam rises from a cooling tower at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar nuclear plant.
The scene captures the cultural diversity of the Knoxville TV market (DMA 59), a place where the Old South and New South and the Old Economy and New Economy live side by side.
To serve the market, Gray Television’s CBS affiliate WVLT has adopted a strategy that emphasizes sports and, according to General Manager Chris Baker, it’s proven a winner in good times and in bad.
“When we really started seeing the economy turn in terms of revenue, we heard ‘hunker down, hold on,’ ” says Baker, a 10-year veteran at the station. “But we like to play offense. We’re the sports station.”
Baker, who got his start in broadcasting on radio 25 years ago, says he’s been through several tough economic cycles, including recessions, “but none quite like this one.”