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The Games, The Bowl— The Luck!

The receptionist's greeting at KARD-KTVE, near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, is exceedingly chipper, and with good reason. “Good morning, Fox 14, home of Super Bowl XLVIII,” begins the welcome, “and KTVE 10, home of the Winter Olympics!” Indeed, KARDKTVE, a Nexstar-Mission Broadcasting virtual duopoly, is one of the rare Fox-NBC station pairs that will feature both the Super Bowl (on Fox) and the Winter Olympics (NBC) on their collective air next month.

It is an extraordinary embarrassment of riches for the stations, but a situation that calls for expert maneuvering to make the most of the opportunity. Their planning well under way, general managers at these stations are up for the challenge. “It’s great to have both stations airing these events,” says Dan Modisett, VP and general manager of WLBT Jackson (Miss.), which has a shared services agreement with local Fox WDBD. “There will be a lot of revenue flowing to the stations, and a lot of viewership flowing to them, too.”

A Fox-NBC duopoly is almost nonexistent in the major markets. LIN owns WAVY and WVBT in Norfolk- Portsmouth-Newport News; Doug Davis, president and general manager, calls February a “unique opportunity” for the pair. Nexstar is the biggest holder of such combos, either owning both stations outright in a market or sharing services with closely aligned Mission’s properties. Besides Monroe (La.)-El Dorado (Texas), Nexstar has virtual duopolies in Little Rock, Wichita Falls, Shreveport, Tyler (Texas), Fort Smith (Ark.) and Baton Rouge, among others.

Other Fox-NBC duos include Morris Multimedia’s WXXV Biloxi (Miss.), which airs NBC on its dot-two channel, and Bonten Media’s WCYB in the Tri-Cities (Va.-Tenn.), where it has a services arrangement with WEMT.

Randy Bongarten, Bonten chairman/ CEO, says the planning for both stations began early in 2013, setting up sales packages and starting the courting of advertisers. In the major markets, Bongarten says, one can simply set a high price and the advertisers will come, but that’s not the case in DMA No. 97. “It doesn’t fall in your lap; you have to work at it,” Bongarten says. “The key to selling special events—if you want to do it well, you do it early.” Automotive, fast food, retail, telecommunications and health care are among the categories buying, he adds.

Super Bowl XLV-Ai-Yi-Yi!

A services arrangement may dictate that the NBC and Fox events be sold individually. And even where both stations share an owner, the best revenue outcome typically involves selling both separately. While bold advertisers shelling out major millions for their 30 seconds of fame in the Super Bowl telecast makes headlines every year, the local advertisers buy in with a package that puts them not just in the game, but before and after, too. “You don’t just sell Super Bowl spots, you sell a schedule,” says a veteran GM, speaking without attribution. “That’s how you make the big dollars.”

While the Super Bowl (Feb. 2) delivers a massive one-night audience, the Olympics (Feb. 7-23) gathers viewers under the tent for 16. The Winter Olympics may not have the star power of the Summer Games, but it remains a terrific setting for a marketer’s message. “It’s one of the few events left that a family can watch together,” says Modisett. “The family can sit and watch for two weeks, so you do get a premium.” That’s about a 20% lift in incremental revenue, he adds.

The Gold Standard

Advertisers may want to see their spot in a choice event such as figure skating, but like the Super Bowl, that means also buying commercials in a lesserviewed competition. Stations set up sponsorship tiers—fittingly labeled Gold, Silver and Bronze— and hold back some inventory for after the start of the Games to maximize value.

While the masses will tune in to these marquee sporting events, some viewers will not—and these duopoly GMs are pleased to have an alternative programming lineup to offer. Jackson, Miss., viewers looking for late news during the Olympics can get it at 9 p.m. on WDBD, instead of waiting until the Games are over for the night on WLBT.

Perhaps as valuable as the revenue boost is the promotional heft of the two sports events—whether it’s NBC selling Jimmy Fallon to the nation as the new Tonight Show host, or a station touting its new morning news team. “It’s a chance to promote to the viewers you may not have,” says Modisett, “to reinforce [your message] to the viewers you do have and to recruit viewers you do not have.”


Anyone requiring proof that the Olympics can be an explosive promotional platform need only check out WXII Winston-Salem (N.C.), which launched a 10 p.m. news on its dot-two channel coming out of the London Games in 2012. WXII 12 News put up a solid 1.9 household rating the week of Jan. 6-10. While it is well behind the established 10 p.m. news on WGHP, the WXII numbers top the 11 p.m. newscast on ABC affiliate WXLV, which had a 1.0 rating that week. (Time Warner Cable produces news for WXLV.)

Hank Price, WXII president and general manager, says the newscast ranges between 1.5 and 2.2. “It is a regular, separate, fullfledged half-hour newscast,” he says. “It has continued to grow the entire 18 months, and I think it will keep growing.”

The newscast, airing seven nights a week, is “very profitable,” adds Price, and it has not eroded WXII’s 11 p.m. news ratings.

The Hearst TV station airs Me-TV on its dot-two; Gilligan’s Island leads into the 10 p.m. newscast during the week. The vintage TV network’s success has been a big part of the newscast’s strong start. “Me-TV has just been a huge hit in this area,” Price says.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.