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WKRC, WCPO and the Revenue Race in Cincy...Again

When it comes to the stations race in Cincinnati, I’d prefer to just skip the entire market.

First of all, it’s the hardest market to spell–harder than Quincy-Hannibal-Keokuk, harder than Ottumwa or Albuquerque, harder even than La Crosse-Eau Claire. (Number of times I spelled Cincinnati just now before the red spell check line finally went away: 5.)

Second of all, it’s a revenue race that’s almost too close to call, and every time I do call it, based on my trusty BIA/Kelsey numbers, I seem to call it wrong.

Like I did in a recent issue, when B&C and TVB named Brian Lawlor, head of Scripps’ TV division, the 2011 Broadcaster of the Year. In our coverage of Lawlor, his group and his accomplishments, we listed the stations in the Scripps group, as well as their market rank, in terms of 2010 revenue as listed in BIA/Kelsey’s 2011 “Investing in Television Market Report.”

We had Scripps’ WCPO at No. 1 in DMA No. 35, with $35 million, according to BIA/Kelsey. That prompted a reaction from Les Vann, GM at WKRC, which BIA/Kelsey says booked $33.83 million last year.

Vann is frustrated, and he has good reason to be. See, we did a Cincinnati market profile in 2009 (Number of times I spelled Cincinnati this time before the red line went away: 3), in which we said WCPO, an ABC affiliate, won “an extremely close revenue race” the year before, based on BIA’s revenue numbers.

Not so, said Vann, who supplied reams of audit evidence from Miller Kaplan to back it up. We posted something on our Station blog acknowledging the issue.

A year or so later, when then WCPO GM Bill Fee announced his retirement, we again referred to WCPO as the local leader, and Vann reminded me of our discussion from 2009. (As I told Les, I try to cover a few hundred markets and a thousand or so stations. Sometimes it’s hard to keep WKRC straight from WRC or KPRC or WKRN…this stuff gets confusing. But no excuses, it’s my job.)

WKRC’s anchor crew takes a back seat to no one.

Vann says WKRC, a CBS affiliate owned by Newport Television, has been the No. 1 biller in the market every year since 2004, and passed an audit from Miller Kaplan showing WKRC on top, along with a link from asserting WKRC’s recent ratings eminence.

Vann noted that revenue from the CW, which WKRC airs on its digital channel, doesn’t figure into the revenue total for WKRC, and would widen the revenue margin for Newport TV in Cincy.

My convo with Les yesterday came on the heels of an email dialogue I’d had with the good people of KHQ Spokane, who were none too pleased, understandably, with the headline atop our recent market profile. So yesterday quickly turned into One of Those Days.

I checked in with new WCPO GM Steve Thaxton, who seems really happy in Cincinnati (Number of times it took me to get Cincinnati right this time: 4. What’s going on?). Thaxton replaced Fee in March. He pulled up his numbers and said the revenue race is “amazingly close,” with the two stations splitting No. 1 or No.2 positions in each ad category. Thaxton said it was fair to say WKRC is slightly ahead in revenue–but predicted WCPO would pull ahead during next year’s election season.

So I’ve made a note in my BIA/Kelsey book indicating that WKRC, not WCPO, is slightly ahead in revenue. I plan to never make this mistake again. The book does state that the revenue figures are estimates; its figures are presumably as accurate as the stations are good about supplying good and accurate info.

I also checked in with BIA/Kelsey. Writes BIA marketing man Robert Udowitz: “I’ve checked with our analysts and given what we know about that market, we believe CPO is the market leader in Cincinnatti, but only by a little more than $1 million.”

Our next “Market Eye” profile of Cincinnati looks to be this December. Can’t wait!