As some broadcast executives in Portland-Auburn see it, many Mainers don’t readily embrace change–and that bodes well for WCSH. Gannett’s NBC affiliate had a landmark July sweeps, grabbing total day ratings while winning late, evening and morning news. As Maine is the first continental U.S. state to see the sun each day, morning news is vital—and WCSH won it with a dazzling 11 rating/58 share.
President/General Manager Steve Thaxton says the station has won the 6 p.m. news for more than two decades, and believes it’s poised to hold the title for the next few decades. “Our news resources are the deciding factor,” he says, citing a partnership with Gannett sibling WLBZ Bangor. “Our statewide resources mean we can pull from our spread of boots on the ground.”
Still, it’s rough going in Portland-Auburn these days. While the market is Nielsen’s No. 74 DMA, it ranks just No. 101 in terms of revenue, according to BIA Financial. Sources say the area needs to change, but is resistant to do so. Its history as a manufacturing center—producing essential goods such as shoes and paper—is indeed history. Fishing and tourism are strong, but there hasn’t been that new category to pick up the slack.
The market is also graying. “The population is the oldest in the country,” says WMTW President/General Manager Ken Bauder, who adds that the state’s average age is some 10 years older than the country’s younger states. “Young people graduate high school and college, and the opportunities aren’t here, while more and more people are retiring here for the quality of life.”
The Portland-Auburn stations took in $42.2 million last year, according to BIA, with a slight dip projected for 2007. WCSH grabbed an estimated $15.5 million, ahead of Sinclair’s CBS outlet WGME ($12.13 million) and Hearst-Argyle’s ABC affiliate WMTW ($9.3 million). Max Media runs the low-earning Fox outlet WPFO, which switched from a Pax affiliation in 2003.
Stations are pushing themselves to figure out how to curtail WCSH’s eminence. WGME celebrated a decisive prime win in the July book and gives WCSH a run for its money in late news, which it won in May. General Manager Terry Cole credits new news director Rob Atkinson and a new game plan devised after extensive market research. “We’ve got a much faster-paced news and a breaking-news format,” he says. “We’re growing like a weed.”
[Read More: Broadcasting Cable]