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Market Eye: Flour Power

While much of upstate New York is viewed as a decaying manufacturing base with too many young people moving out of the market, general managers in Rochester insist that the No. 80 DMA is different. It's the No. 72 revenue market, according to BIA Financial, its population is essentially flat, and it relies on technology and education for its economic well-being.

“It's a wonderful midsize market with a large-town feel,” says Nexstar Executive VP/Co-COO Tim Busch, who oversees WROC. “It's completely different from Buffalo, Syracuse and the more traditional blue-collar markets.”

Once known as the Flour City for its abundant grist mills, Rochester features a vibrant arts scene, including opera, theater and an elite symphony. Much of it was funded by George Eastman, the Eastman Kodak founder who bequeathed major cash to local arts and educational institutions before taking his life in 1932.

Rochester features an exceptionally tight ratings race, with Newport ABC affiliate WHAM, Hubbard's NBC outlet WHEC and Nexstar's CBS affiliate WROC all taking different contests in May. WHAM won total day household ratings, along with mornings and 6 p.m. news. Late news was a virtual tie between WHEC (5.0 rating/18 share) and WHAM (5.0/17), with WROC just behind. WROC won primetime.

WROC manages Sinclair's Fox outlet, WUHF, and produces its 10 p.m. news. (Louis Gattozzi is the WROC vice president and general manager.) Vision Broadcasting owns small MyNetworkTV outlet WBGT, WHAM airs The CW on a digital channel, and Time Warner Cable has 24-hour news channel YNN.

News Director Ed Buttaccio says YNN was at its best covering the tragic plane crash in Buffalo last winter, then tackling a local quadruple-murder story the next day. “That's why we exist,” he says. “We follow stories through without waiting for appointed times.”

WHAM won the 2008 revenue race with slightly more than $19 million, according to BIA. VP/General Manager Chuck Samuels credits the long tenures of his anchor crew. “They're extremely well recognized and well respected in the community,” he says. “Viewers know and trust our people.”

WHEC has a newish 7 p.m. news to reach those returning home late from work, and its “coverage you can count on” brand connects with viewers. VP/General Manager Arnold Klinsky says the brand is about shedding light on some of the newsgathering process, such as a reporter telling viewers about a key interview with a source. “We worked really hard to create the brand,” he says, “and we tell stories in a way that fits the brand.”

Brutal winters aside, station execs like Rochester for its reasonable cost of living, favorable outdoor life on the lakes, and overall goodwill that even extends to general managers. “My competitors are good people,” Klinsky says. “It's fun to be in the television business here.”

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