Market Eye: Bridging the GapIn the Bluegrass | @BCMikeMalone

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Things are developing in Louisville. There’s a string of expansive city parks
being created, two bridges being built over the Ohio River and Ford is ramping up production of its Escape SUVs at its local plant.
The TV stations are hustling too: WDRB is not content
with its newly attained No. 2 position, while
WLKY is not giving up its title anytime soon.

“We work hard to be ‘Live, Local, Late-Breaking,’”
says Glenn Haygood, WLKY president/general manager.
“It continues to be our hallmark — it’s what we do.”

WLKY has bolstered its daytime with Steve Harvey
and Ellen, and its news crew with weather veteran
John Belski, who had retired from WAVE in 2010.
Even WDRB’s general manager gives the rival
Hearst TV station credit for its “elegant” promos
and relentless approach. “WLKY is doing what a
No. 1 station should do — defend their turf aggressively,”
says Bill Lamb, WDRB president/general
manager. “They’re just not making mistakes.”

Block Communications’ Fox affiliate WDRB is
doing some things right as well. The station did not
make any layoffs during the recession, says Lamb,
and is up around 35 bodies since then. WDRB is
building out another 11,500 square feet of work
space to hold a staff that has swelled to around 165.

The station made its move during the recent lean
years. “The competition got predictable and conservative,
and we ramped it up,” says Lamb. “We
leapfrogged two stations. I don’t think that happens
without the recession.”

WDRB’s hires include several Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper alums — two prominent sportswriters
last year, and a few more print vets in September,
which has triggered a significant spike on

Block also owns MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYO
and has a shared services arrangement with LM
Communications-owned WBKI, a CW affiliate. That
station offers a 7 p.m. newscast.

WLKY is the CBS affiliate. Raycom owns NBC
station WAVE. Belo has ABC affiliate WHAS. DMA
No. 49’s primary subscription TV operator is Insight,
which was acquired for $3 billion in 2011 by Time
Warner Cable.

WLKY ran the table in the May sweeps, while the
other Big Three could all claim a runner-up finish in at
least one of the major races. WLKY took the 11 p.m.
contest with a 7.5 household rating/14 share, ahead
of WHAS’ 4.7/8.8. WDRB posted a 5.9/9.2 at 10 p.m.

WLKY’s estimated $24.7 million in 2012 revenue
was tops in Louisville, according to BIA/Kelsey.
WDRB was next with $22.5 million, while WHAS
booked $20.4 million.

WAVE introduced Bill Shory as news director in
June, around the same time it welcomed feature
anchor Shannon Cogan back to the market after
a seven-year stint at WFOR Miami. WAVE debuted
a 7-8 a.m. newscast on its Bounce TV and This TV
subchannels in July, a move Ken Selvaggi, VP and
general manager, calls “a good public service.”

The NBC affiliate also had one of the top Queen
debuts in the country last month; the syndicated
rookie airs at 4 p.m. “We planned to launch
with a bang, and we did,” Selvaggi says of WAVE’s
focused marketing approach for Latifah.

WHAS has an On Your Side brand and is wrapped
up in University of Louisville sports this time of
year, with football and basketball games and coach’s
shows for both. “We are all about U. of L. when we
hit fall,” says Linda Danna, president and GM.

WDRB added weekend morning news from 6
a.m.-9 a.m. in January.

The local economy is lukewarm. “It’s not gangbusters
growth — it’s slow growth,” says Selvaggi.

But the 4,000-acre Floyds Fork parks project is taking
root, and the new bridges will add vigor to downtown.
“It’s a real good time to be in Louisville,” says
Haygood. “And I haven’t even mentioned [U. of L.]
being Sugar Bowl and NCAA basketball champs.”

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.