A TV StationJust '4' Women

While the local TV programmers are intently focused on reaching out to female viewers with both their content and their sponsors’ marketing messages, WOTV Grand Rapids (Mich.) may be the only station in the nation that wears its female-friendly marketing on its sleeve. Over a year ago, the LIN ABC affiliate rebranded itself “WOTV 4 Women”—with female talent and female-oriented local programming focused on food, family and other pertinent categories.

Not one of a handful of local television veterans could think of another broadcast station branding itself to appeal specifically to one gender or the other. “It’s the first I’ve seen of it,” said a career local news exec who requested anonymity. “I’ve never seen anybody go that far.”

A unique set of circumstances compelled WOTV to launch its “4 Women” brand. It is in a double-hyphenated market, Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, where WOTV is one of two ABC affiliates, owing to the FCC issuing a second ABC license in the early 1970s due to the DMA’s vast reach. Gannett owns ABC station WZZM. LIN owns WOTV, which is clearly the smaller station of the two. WOTV posted a 0.5 total-day household rating/1.9 share in the February sweeps, while WZZM put up a 2/8.3. Both were well behind LIN’s other Grand Rapids station, WOOD.

“WOTV 4 Women has information every West Michigan woman needs to know,” read WOTV4Women.com when it announced the rebrand, mentioning tips on balancing work and life.

Diane Kniowski, VP and general manager of WOOD-WOTV, would not comment for this article, but did speak about WOTV in a recent B&C story (see “Market Eye,”). Kniowski said the decision to rebrand in January 2012 stemmed in part from the 2010 U.S. Census. “When I looked at the survey, two big things jumped out: women and people 50- plus,” she said.

Women represent a whopping 57% of local news viewers across all dayparts, according to SmithGeiger research. In a sense, every station is programming to them—especially ABC affiliates with their femalefriendly network fare. “The really savvy major groups, one way or the other, build programming around that notion,” said a veteran consultant, mentioning the Cox and ABCowned groups as examples. “It’s not rocket science.”

WOTV had an estimated $3.3 million in revenue in 2012, according to BIA/Kelsey. Rivals say the rebrand has not moved the ratings needle. A previous WOTV iteration featured “My ABC” and appeared to take on WZZM directly. WOTV used to have its own news team and facility, but it now shares with WOOD, which produces 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts for WOTV.

Local TV veterans suggest some women viewers feel programming targeted to them can come off as pandering, while others say it’s a worthwhile strategy for standing out. “In the difficult universe of 2013, where [viewing] is sliced and diced, maybe something like this can work,” said the veteran consultant. “But I’d be highly skeptical going in.”

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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.