MARKET SHARE BY P.J. BEDNARSKI

Another Sign Of The Times: Entrepreneurship

Here's a tale of two broadcasters, undeterred by the economic doldrums, who started new broadcasting-support businesses. Ex-KXASer Larry Watzman created Revnew, which offers stations inexpensive, turnkey promotional campaigns that come complete with slick videos. Linda Wellman, who says she came up with the idea of online/on-air obits as an account executive at WNEM Flint, has gone off to market her own service, DirectObits.tv. “My goal is 70 stations by 2012,” she says.

In time, we’ll probably discover lots of positive things that resulted from the economic downturn. We know some already. Americans are learning to save again. There are some terrific blue plate specials at restaurants. And entrepreneurs with a sharp idea are figuring out it’s a good time to dive in — they can swim.

Let’s take a look at a couple: Larry Watzman and Linda Wellman.

First Watzman. As the creative director at NBC-owned KXAS Dallas, he created promotions that linked the station with advertisers with giveaways and marketing incentives. Rather than reacting to an advertiser’s overture, he initiated the promotional idea that account executives could take out to the marketplace. Watzman says he brought in $2.6 million in new revenue over 18 months and decided it was time to see if that idea had any legs nationwide.

“This success gave me the idea I could jump out and do this on my own for lots of stations,” he says.

In June, he linked with Stephen Arnold Music, the Dallas firm that provides music for newscasts and other programs at stations and networks. Together, they formed Revnew, a turnkey service that offers stations inexpensive promotional marketing concepts, revolving around mini-sweepstakes and great looking spots. The campaigns come complete with slick videos that stations can use to bring in incremental dollars.

There are lots of companies that can create promos for newscasts and the like. “But our concept is really sales and marketing driven,” Watzman says. “There are no companies I’ve found that really help stations make money. Stations need low-cost alternatives to boost the bottom line and that’s what we do.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Stations can choose from three turnkey promotions: a football contest, in which winners get a fancy and expensive tailgate party; “In the Bag,” a Christmas-pegged promo that gives away designer purses with a store gift card inside; and “Stupid Cupid,” a promotion pegged to Valentine’s Day.

Stations buy the professionally-done promo ads and Revnew’s services, which include providing the prizes (unless the stations’ advertiser wants to do that). Stations find the advertising partner, though Watzman is open to helping with that, too.

“That football spot that looks like a top-notch network spot — I’m selling that for only $5K in the top markets,” Watzman says. “I can syndicate that all over the country. It’s market-exclusive and something a sales department can purchase and take to a client and say, ‘How about this?’” (He says the spot cost $25,000 to produce.)

The price sound pretty cheap: Watzman will charge as little $3,500 for exclusive use of one of those campaigns (including the gifts and the Web elements) in a midsize market where he thinks most of his business will come from. It would be cheaper in the Glendive-sized places. “It’s too good to pass up,” he says.

The commercials are slick — probably slicker than what most smaller market’s promo department can afford. (See for yourself at www.revnew.com.). And the contest drives viewers to the station’s website to register. The promo campaigns don’t displace ads, necessarily; they might replace promos for Dr. Phil or whatever.

So far, Watzman has sold packages to WJZY in Charlotte, N.C. and WTRF in Wheeling, W.Va-Steubenville, Ohio, and has other deals coming in Huntsville, Ala.; Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Monterey, Calif.

It’s a start-up, but Watzman seems pleased with the progress. “Next year, when you don’t have political ads or Olympics, this will be the kind of carrot on a stick you can offer advertisers,” Watzman says.  

We’ll check back next year to see how the carrots are doing.

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The last time Market Share appeared, I wrote about Meredith Broadcasting’s online and on-air obituary service, one of a handful nationwide that hope to crack the death notice market where newspapers still dominate. Meredith was an early entrant into the business at its WNEM Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich. and it now sells the service to other stations nationwide.

When that column appeared, TVNewsCheck was contacted by Linda Wellman, a former account executive at WNEM who claims that she came up with the obit service.

She recalled talking to a funeral director after newspapers in the area began publishing only three times a week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday). It was from that conversation that Wellman discovered that the new publishing schedule was causing funeral directors, well, grief. They couldn’t get their death notices out on a timely basis.

Wellman told her bosses about that and proposed the on-air and website obits as a way to serve that market, and she says that led to WNEM’s obituary service. But when she asked to sell the service to other stations nationwide, she says Meredith turned her down. Shortly thereafter, she was let go. (Asked about all this, Meredith says only that Wellman was “one member of the five-member start-up team,” and adds, “We wish her well.”)

In any event, Wellman’s over it. “I want to do it one way. They want to it another way. That’s OK. That’s business,” she says simply.

Her way is DirectObits (see www.directobits.tv), a rival obit service for which she filed a patent in February. It does basically the same thing Meredith’s service does, only more efficiently, she claims.

Wellman is now out selling the service to funeral directors (who are the ones who pay, representing the family of the deceased) and stations (which get a part of the proceeds).  

Wellman’s DirectObit.tv is already up and running (if death notices can be said to do that) at Nexstar’s WBRE Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Barrington’s WPBM Traverse City, Mich., and WNWO Toledo, Ohio; and Cordillera’s KOAA Colorado Spring, Colo.

There’s more to come. She’s talking to another big group. “My goal is 70 stations by 2012,” she says.

“Did you see the movie A Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear?” Wellman asks in an e-mail to me. “He played the man who invented the intermittent windshield wipers who introduced the idea to the Big Three auto makers and spent his life in court fighting law suits.”

“I don’t want to be Greg Kinnear, but … I will be Pepsi to Meredith’s Coke!”


Do you or your station have a good holiday season sales promotion you’d like the Market Share column to know about? Contact me at [email protected]  and let me know about that or any other local sales thoughts you have.  The column appears every other week. Read earlier Market Share columns here.


Comments (3)

Leave a Reply

Shirley Putnam says:

November 23, 2010 at 9:35 am

Waltzman’s campaigns remind me if the “Little Cheeper” pre-packaged car campaigns that were sold exclusively to markets back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The dealer got tagged … great for name recognition and displaying the customer’s uniques selling proposition. And what’s happened to “Needs Analysis?” I guess we’re back to, “Here’s a new promotion that was designed to fit everyone, and you need it.” Consultive sell? Out the window with an old, recycled idea.

Emily Teaford says:

November 24, 2010 at 3:53 am

My Best Buys TV Show, which is now a paid infomercial program, was what I originally did for 16 years as the business reporter with KCAL as a news program. When KCAL gave me the axe after 16 years, I took the formula I developed for the news and turned it into a money making business. Cheers, Alan http://www.alanbestbuys.com

    Shirley Putnam says:

    November 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Well, indeed, Cheers to you Alan. Not necessarily to the consumer, but definitely to you.


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