Real Momentum in Motown

Why This Matters: Detroit stations are being creative with newer platforms to offer a comprehensive news roundup in the lively market.

The tone of news in Detroit has shifted considerably. Not long ago, stations reported on crime, bankruptcy, dreadful roads and people departing the market. These days, the roads are still rough, but it’s more about companies and residents moving in.

“Every day, every week, it’s another announcement, another company opening up here,” said Mike Renda, VP and general manager of Fox’s WJBK. “For years, people were fleeing the city. Now they’re going the opposite way.”

The Detroit stations are using all available platforms to cover the multitude of news. Scripps has ABC affiliate WXYZ and MyNetworkTV-aligned WMYD, the latter with morning and 10 p.m. news. WXYZ offers what Mike Murri, VP and general manager, calls “digital cut-ins” — five daily local updates on Alexa, Roku and other platforms. WJBK has a lively Facebook Live strategy.

Graham Media’s WDIV has one of the most productive podcast outputs in local TV. The station is renovating its building to get all of its content creators working alongside each other to figure out the best plan for each story and platform. “Our building is, in many ways, emblematic of our ideology,” Marla Drutz, WDIV VP and general manager, said. “Content isn’t just one platform anymore.”

Related: WJBK Connects With Friends Through Facebook Live

CBS owns WWJ and The CW-affiliated WKBD. WWJ does not do local newscasts, but offers two-minute “Eye on Detroit” reports during CBS This Morning and online, and “First Forecast” weather updates throughout the day. “Weather affects everybody,” noted Brian Watson, VP and general manager.

WADL is a locally owned independent station airing Black-ish, Mom and court shows, which Kevin Adell, CEO of owner Adell Broadcasting, called “modern-day soap operas.” Adell’s The Word Network produced and aired beloved Detroiter Aretha Franklin’s funeral.

Comcast is the primary pay TV operator. Detroit is Nielsen designated market area No. 14, and includes a few hundred thousand Canadian homes that don’t count toward the ranking. “The market punches above its weight,” Drutz said.

WDIV is located downtown. That wasn’t something to brag about years ago, but now it is. The NBC affiliate’s podcasts include Mismatch, about incompatible people or things in history, and Shattered, about crime. Season two of Shattered, called “White Boy Rick,” garnered over 1 million impressions (streams plus downloads).

WJBK introduced 4 a.m. news in the fall, and is live 4 a.m. to noon. “Fox Corporation is a lot of live news and a lot of live sports,” Renda said. “We feel like we’re well-positioned to be part of the new Fox Corporation.”

WWJ has the Sunday show Michigan Matters, and Watson is pumped for a “banner year” on CBS, including March Madness and The Masters. WXYZ-WMYD covers local events such as the North American International Auto Show and the Woodward Dream Cruise, a classic-car event. The duopoly’s various platforms “have given us so many possibilities to shine a light on different places in our community,” Murri said.

WJBK won the 6 a.m. race in the February sweeps. WDIV won households at 5 p.m., while WJBK won the 25-54 demo. WDIV took households at 6 p.m. and WJBK got demos. At 11 p.m. WDIV got a 7.0 in households and 2.3 in 25-54. WXYZ did a 4.1/1.2 and WJBK a 3.3/1.8.

While many of Detroit’s neighborhoods still need help, downtown is booming. Fiat Chrysler announced new Jeep plants that will bring 6,500 jobs to the market. “The momentum is really in our favor as a city,” said Renda. “Now we really have to keep focused.”

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.