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Hard-Nosed News

Bad weather is huge in Cleveland, but bad behavior is a hit with viewers, too. Several stations have multiple-person investigative teams covering everything from deficient daycare centers to security breaches at the airport, and WOIO recently snagged WKYC's star investigative reporter. “Traffic is not as big a story here, so we use our helicopter as much for breaking news,” says Mike Renda, VP/general manager at Fox O&O WJW.

WJW had a successful February sweeps to secure its lead. The station offers strong network fare, and its news dominates. The 10 p.m. news won with an 11.5 rating/17.6 share, and WJW grabbed early-evening and morning-news titles, too. Renda credits the staff: “They're young and talented. They've been in the marketplace a long time.”

Cleveland's economy is flat, but local auto and telecommunications have station managers optimistic, as does the 2008 presidential election. Time Warner is the dominant cable player.

The stations in Nielsen's No. 17 market grossed an estimated $276.7 million in 2006, according to BIA Financial, up from $247.1 million the year before. WJW was tops with $64.1 million in 2005 (the last year for which numbers are available), but the rest are neck and neck. Gannett's NBC affiliate WKYC grossed $45.45 million, and Scripps' ABC outlet WEWS brought in $45 million, just ahead of Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO ($43.3 million).

Stations are scrambling to grab share. WKYC is growing on the Web, with 10 million page views last month, thanks in part to a snowy winter. And the station is finding success with its 7 p.m. news, which grew 25% from the November sweeps. “People are getting home later, so this is often the first one they can watch,” says President/General Manager Brooke Spectorsky. “It's been phenomenal for us.”

WEWS also does well with non-traditional newscasts, such as noon. The station added HD news in January and has three reporters focused on investigative reports, including what VP/General Manager John Butte says is the market's only dedicated consumer-affairs reporter.

It all fits in with the station's “On Your Side” brand. “We're a legendary station,” Butte says, “with a very high profile in the marketplace.”

At WOIO, half of a Raycom duopoly with MyNetworkTV station WUAB, VP/General Manager Bill Applegate is stirring things up with in-your-face news. The daytime newscasts are up, and Applegate has boosted revenue by focusing his sales staff on startup and small businesses.

WUAB will air off-network programs Two and a Half Men and Family Guy come fall, and it frequently taps viewers for Web content. Applegate says—with its mix of local music, “Timewasters” (bizarre photos and interactive games with a humorous bent) and viewer-generated video—is unique: “It's different from any other station site. I think it's kind of revolutionary.“