Market Eye: A Double WHAMmy For Rochester Rivals

The big guy is bigger still in Rochester, N.Y. Market monster WHAM expanded its operation at the beginning of the year when Fox affilate WUHF moved in. Both stations air news under the 13WHAM brand after an outsourcing arrangement with WROC, which previously produced the news for WUHF, expired.

Sinclair owns WUHF, while closely aligned Stephen Mumblow holds the WHAM license. “It’s a significant change to the market, that’s for sure,” says Chuck Samuels, general manager of the two stations.

WHAM debuted a 4:30 a.m. news in January as it seeks to dominate up and down the Rochester TV dial. But it gets sanguine competition from Hubbard’s WHEC and Nexstar’s WROC. NBC affiliate WHEC began pushing hard on a viewer advocacy brand last October, under the rubric “New York State Exposed.” Any threat to quality of life in DMA No. 78— taxes, crime, subpar schools—is fair game. “We’re engaging our community in substantial and meaningful discussion on issues that are affecting them,” says Derek Dalton, VP/GM.

WROC has put its primary anchor team on a Sunday-to-Thursday schedule to make the most of CBS’ roaring primetime. The station is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. “We’re highlighting the fact that we’re Rochester’s first TV station,” says Louis Gattozzi, VP and general manager, “and we’ve been a part of the community for 65 years.”

Rochester’s economy looks robust. Kodak emerged from bankruptcy in September, and unemployment is at its lowest rate in years. BIA/Kelsey forecasts an estimated $58.2 million in TV revenue this year and slots Rochester at a solid No. 75 in terms of market revenue.

The region is infamous for brutal winters, but the station execs say the rest of the year is dandy. Couple that with a culturally rich market and stable economy, and it’s not a bad place to live and work. “Rochester has basically everything you could want,” says Dalton.

Rochester’s other television players include MyNetworkTV station WBGT, owned by Vision Communications. WHAM features The CW on its dot-two, WHEC has Me-TV and WROC airs Bounce TV, while WBGT has one of the richest multicast lineups in the business.

Besides MyNetworkTV, WBGT airs a batch of local shows, including those dedicated to hunting and fishing as well as a bowling program. The station also caters to smaller businesses that can’t afford major network shows. “It’s nice commercials at a low cost,” says Gary Sajdak, director of operations and marketing.

The market’s main subscription operator is Time Warner Cable, which rebranded its YNN news channel to get the company name in there. TWC’s “hub-and-spoke” operation gives the news channels a strong presence throughout New York State. “The whole share concept and centralized operation allows us to do a lot editorially,” says Steve Paulus, TWC senior VP of news and local programming.

A leading primetime paced WROC to a totalday ratings win in last November’s sweeps. WHAM won morning and early evening news and grabbed the late news title with a 4.3 household rating/17 share—ahead of WROC’s 3.8/15. WHAM won a tighter adults 25-54 contest at 11 p.m. With a huge boost from NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, WHEC won prime, total-day and the late news contest in February.

WHAM thrives on stability. Samuels has 18 years at the station and figures he’s somewhere in the middle of the seniority curve, which is seriously skewed by the likes of lead anchor Don Alhart (48 years at the station) and production manager Craig Heslor, who reaches a half-century on the job this summer. “That knowledge of the community, and our relationship to the community, is key,” Samuels says.

With a trio of mobile apps (news, weather, alarm clock), WHAM is meeting consumers on all platforms. “We’ve positioned ourselves for the future,” adds Samuels, “whatever direction that takes us.”


You need a scorecard to keep the subchannels straight at WBGT: This TV on the dot-two, testosteronefueled Tuff TV on dot-three, country music channel Heartland on dot-four, locally focused MyRochesterTV on dot-five and QVC on dot-six. The channels’ low-power, standard-def status enables them all to fit. “We’re looking at quantity more than quality,” says Gary Sajdak, WBGT director of operations and marketing.

MyRochesterTV airs locally produced programming including high school sports and comedy, and may add cooking and real estate shows.

WBGT does not subscribe to a ratings service. It offers one of the broadest digi-net portfolios nationwide, and it may not be finished. “We look to add more,” says Sajdak.

Michael Malone

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.