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Station Owner Takes Control of Its Air

A local show gets a much bigger stage next week when station owner Media General exports Daytime, an infotainment program produced by NBC affiliate WFLA Tampa, Fla., to six sister stations across the Southeast. The syndicated version, premiering Sept. 18, will be a rebroadcast of WFLA's show, with hyper-local segments stripped out. Tips on back-to-school fashions could stay, but a feature on a Tampa restaurant might be replaced by a general food segment.

“We're trying to broaden the show's appeal,” says Steve DeGregorio, executive producer of Daytime.

Media General stations carrying the program include: WSAV Savannah, Ga.; WNCN Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; WCBD Charleston, S.C.; WRBL Columbus, Ga.; WCWJ Jacksonville, Fla; and WKRB Mobile, Ala.

The expansion of Daytime comes as station owners move to lessen stations' dependence on daytime shows from outside suppliers. Buying a show from a studio often means a hefty license fee or a split of advertising time. And, in recent years, far more new daytime shows have tanked than have succeeded. By developing programs in-house, station owners control the production and hold onto all of the revenue from ad sales.

Several such shows are hitting the airwaves this season. In December, NBC Universal plans to launch a female-targeted infotainment program, iVillage Live, for its owned-and-operated stations. The following month, Fox Television Stations will debut a 10 a.m. show featuring two Fox News anchors on its O&Os. It may sell the program to affiliates. WFLA also produces a youth-targeted Saturday-night entertainment show, The Spot, which Media General also talks about expanding to other stations.


Station consultant Bruce Northcott, a partner in Crawford, Johnson & Northcott, expects more groups to follow suit.

“Stations are under a lot of pressure to grow revenue and take greater control of their fate,” he says. “They can make money with these shows.”

One way stations generate additional revenue from infotainment shows in particular is by integrating advertisers into the programs. Daytime serves as an early model for such deals; advertisers can sponsor segments or have their products featured in segments. The show will even go live from a retailer's location. The Media General stations syndicating Daytime will be able to insert their own local-sponsored segments.


But such efforts have been controversial. When Daytime launched in 2003, critics said WFLA was engaging in “pay for play” and would confuse its news viewers.

The station says it carefully separates Daytime from its local news, using a different production staff and dedicated hosts instead of its news anchors. Sponsored segments are clearly identified on-air.

“We've learned that advertisers want a non-traditional approach,” says DeGregorio. “We try to find the right content to fit the show and the advertisers' needs.”

WFLA's audience has responded positively. Daytime regularly places no. 2 in its time slot. In July, the program notched a 2.4 household rating and a 1.7 in the women 25-54 demographic.

Other Media General stations are hoping for similar success. In Raleigh-Durham, WNCN will run Daytime at noon to replace failed reality show Starting Over.

“They've had a lot of success with the show in Tampa,” says General Manager Barry Leffler. “Now we'll have an opportunity to add local content and work with advertisers.”

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