Skip to main content

Shedding its rockabilly image

For decades, Memphis, Tenn., was the storied home of the TV station run from the Peabody Hotel, the hotel famous for the ducks swimming in its fountain. Purchased by The New York Times in the 1970s, the station changed its call letters from WREC to WREG-TV and its location to a street known as Channel 3 Drive.

Today, says veteran General Manager Bob Eoff, the market, too, is experiencing dramatic changes. Historically, Memphis has been a bit of an underperformer. It is ranked as the No. 41 DMA but is only No. 50 in revenue, with a fairly low per capita income of $15,685. But the city has become a hub for air travel and air-cargo traffic, has an important medical center and is becoming more cosmopolitan.

Quite atypically, three network affiliates are operated by the same management. WPTY-TV, the Clear Channel-owned ABC affiliate, also runs WB programming in late fringe—accommodating the area's many shift workers, says General Manager Jack Peck—and UPN affiliate WLMT(TV) as well. "It may be the only arrangement like this in a major market," says Peck.

ER, as in many markets, is the top network show, but locals say new Fox hit
The Bernie Mac Show
is coming on strong in the market. In daytime, Judge Joe Brown, who ran a courtroom in this city even while he ran one on television, remains popular today as a full-time TV judge, as do other TV judges and legal shows. Daytime talk shows like Maury
and Jerry Springer
do well here, too, although the top syndicated shows are in access: Wheel of Fortune
and Entertainment Tonight.

Local executives say Memphis's local programming takes advantage of its rockabilly roots, and local music acts appear regularly on morning shows. Local Fox show Good Morning Memphis
offers a regular summer-morning concert series from historic Beale Street.