Traffic at the Top in Atlanta Ratings Race

WSB has been the beast in Atlanta for many years, but the race is tightening. Fox-owned WAGA is coming on strong with its relentless local content strategy, and the other players are shaking things up, too.

“The two stations are locked in a heavyweight battle,” Bill Schneider, WAGA VP and general manager, said. WAGA tacked another hour onto its morning show in the spring. The program now runs from 4:30 to 11 a.m., with The Wendy Williams Show moving to 11. Late news goes 10 p.m. to midnight.

WSB is the Cox Media Group ABC affiliate in DMA No. 10. Tegna holds NBC affiliate WXIA and MyNetworkTV station WATL. Meredith has CBS outlet WGCL and independent WPCH, known as Peachtree TV. Univision owns WUVG and Capital Media Group has Telemundo affiliate WKTB. Comcast is the primary pay TV operator in Atlanta.

WXIA redid its branding, going with “Where Atlanta Speaks.” “We found out what’s important to the community,” said John Deushane, president and general manager. “It’s not anchors on high. It’s two-way communication.”

WATL has expanded its primetime news, going 8 to 11 p.m. Deushane calls it “a guilty pleasure television station,” with Judge Jerry and Maury.

WGCL features segments based on Meredith magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens. Lyle Banks, VP and general manager, talks about using different platforms for “audience engagement” — including podcast “CSI Atlanta,” which has a local crime scene investigator talking about cold cases.

Peachtree TV has local sports and 9 p.m. news. “People are really taking to an earlier newscast,” Banks said, thanks in part to Atlanta being a “brutal commuting market.”

WSB management did not return calls.

WUVG has 6 and 11 p.m. news, and newsmag Conexion Fin de Semana on weekends. The newsroom produces four local news shorts each morning. More news may be coming, perhaps at night on UniMás, which airs on WUVG’s D2, or after the midday network news. “We’re always looking to expand,” said Eddy Elguezabal, president and general manager. “There are a lot of possibilities.”

WKTB has news at 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m., and Acceso Total Atlanta at 5 p.m. “It’s a fun entertainment show that can highlight local businesses,” said general manager Ivan Shammas, with “pay to play” policy.

WKTB and WSB partner on news, WKTB providing Spanish-language and WSB English. Similarly, WUVG and WGCL pair up on news.

The morning race is tight. From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., WSB and WAGA each had a 41% of share in viewers 25-54 in November, with WXIA at 14% and WGCL at 5%. WSB won 5-6 p.m. with 43% to WAGA’s 35%, and again at 6. WAGA won 10-11 p.m., while WSB is tops at 11 p.m.

WAGA thrives with a diehard investigative team, a drone fleet offering intriguing visuals and a willingness to chase down stories beyond market lines. “We’re not afraid to travel for weather that concerns our region,” said Schneider, pointing out a tornado story in Alabama and Hurricane Dorian coverage.

Georgia breaks from its Super Tuesday past and has its primary March 24. Some believe its standalone status will be good for political spending.”We anticipate a lot of presidential activity,” said Deushane.

Atlanta is the home of Fortune 500 companies such as Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Delta. The last Super Bowl happened at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown.

“There’s always something fascinating happening in Atlanta,” Banks said.

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.