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Published: 11/26/2001

WUPW wants its competitors to feel the heat

As far as television markets go, Toledo is pretty conservative. There's not a whole lot of risk-takin' going on (sorry, Jerry Lee Lewis fans).

WUPW-TV, Channel 36, general manager Ray Maselli, who has been on the job for only eight months, is doing his part to try and change that perception. He seems to relish the opportunity to ruffle feathers.

August was a big month for the Fox affiliate's news operation. It expanded its 10 p.m. newscast from 30 minutes to an hour. In a related move, it unveiled a seven-minute “Fastcast” - covering weather, news, and sports (in that order) in a rapid-fire format - thus going head-to-head for the first time, albeit for five minutes, against Toledo's three 11 p.m. newscasts.

Maselli was at it again for the November ratings period. He mounted a promotional campaign that ranks among the most extensive by a Toledo media organization. An eight-page advertising circular - distributed to 200,000 homes - promoted the station's “watch and win” contest, where, from Nov. 5-28, the station would attempt to give away $1,000 three times each weekday and $10,000 once per week. (Through Nov. 19, no one had claimed any of the prizes.)

Maselli said he tried a similar promotion when he was general manager of a station in Youngstown, and it resulted in about a one-point ratings gain in the station's targeted demographic. A one-point ratings gain in WUPW's target demographic (age 18-49) would mean about 5,000 additional viewers.

“The idea behind this is that you want people to sample your product,” Maselli said. “Hopefully, they will like our newscast and stay with us [after the ratings period ends on Wednesday].”

WTVG-TV, Channel 13, news director Janet Hundley called the promotion a “gimmick” to attract viewers and questioned whether viewers will stick around.

She hopes that the other Toledo stations don't follow WUPW's lead regarding promotions. She said that in Charlotte, N.C., competition escalated to the point where one station offered $100,000 during a sweeps-related contest. “Then, it's no longer about the [news] product you have,” Hundley said. “It's about your promotions.”

The next ratings period will be in February, and Maselli is mum about his promotional plans. “I'm just trying to be a good competitor,” he said.

And a savvy one at that.

NICHE MARKET?: WGTE-FM (91.3) is using billboards to promote National Public Radio's Morning Edition. The billboard does not mince words: “Intelligent. Informative. In-depth News.” (Let's just say that when it comes to Toledo's talk-oriented morning shows, WGTE fills a void.)

According to WGTE communications manager Jim Sattler, the station has an estimated 5,200 listeners age 18-plus from 6-10 a.m. Don Lea, who operates the local MobilTrak rating system, said WGTE ranks ninth among the 18 local FM stations during the morning-drive time slot.

RADIO NUMBERS: Speaking of MobilTrak, Lea says these were the top six FM stations, with their percentage of the audience, in early November: WKKO (99.9), 14.7; WVKS (92.5), 12.2; WRVF (101.5), 8.9; WIOT (104.7), 7.8; WRQN (93.5), 7.7; and WXKR (94.5), 7.3.

The top five FM morning-drive shows, according to MobilTrak: WKKO, 15.7; WIOT, 11.8; WVKS, 11.0; WRQN, 8.4; and WRVF, 7.9.

HAT TRICK: WTVG-TV, Channel 13, news anchor Jim Carey won't soon forget a recent Saturday newscast, which had an unusual starting time of 7 p.m. (after a college football game). Carey greeted viewers by saying, in succession, “Good morning ... good afternoon ... good evening.” He could only shake his head and smile. Undeterred, he made a nice recovery.

HEADING WEST: WTOL-TV, Channel 11, weekend news anchor Patrice Kennedy has submitted her resignation, effective Dec. 23, according to news director C.J. Beutien. Her husband, who is a pilot, was recently transferred to California.

Russ Lemmon's column on the local media appears Mondays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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