Heading into Super Bowl XLI, WISHTV Channel 8 is in the catbird's seat among local broadcasters.
With WISH's affiliate network, CBS, carrying the Feb. 4 game, the local station is set to rake in a seven-figure sum in advertising revenue-in addition to what it would have made on the Super Bowl if the Colts weren't in it, industry experts said.
"With the Colts in the Super Bowl for the first time since moving to Indianapolis, WISH's opportunities are immense," said Bob Gustafson, a Ball State University advertising professor. "It goes far beyond a normal Super Bowl."
But whether WISH's growth opportunities are short-term or long-term is up for debate.
WISH has long claimed the area's No. 2 overall spot in local TV news ratings, chasing WTHR-TV Channel 13 in several demographic categories. Now officials hope to use the Super Bowl broadcast and its locally produced pre- and postgame coverage to promote its news product and gain ground on its local competitors.
Station leaders have planned myriad special Super Bowl shows, including at least two primetime specials and a sixhour pre-game run-up on WISH; a 24-hour special Feb. 3-4 on its sister station WNDY-TV Channel 23; and broadcasts targeted to the Hispanic market on sister station WIIH-TV Channel 17.
In addition to giving viewers another reason to tune in, the additional programming could translate to a windfall for WISH, as it sells ads in shows that wouldn't air if the
Colts weren't playing in the big game.
"CBS having the Super Bowl is certainly a benefit for WISH, and they'll do very well financially," said Rich Pegram, WTHR general manager. "But will the Super Bowl change the balance of power over the course of the year? No. History has proven that."
Pegram pointed out that WTHR has had the Olympics on several occasions, and other networks take turns airing the Super Bowl.
"None of these events change the pattern of viewing long-term," Pegram said. "You generally get spillover for a day or two."
Because this year's Super Bowl will offer a much larger local audience and broader demographics than almost any other TV show, WISH General Manager Jeff White thinks the game provides an unprecedented opportunity for his station to gain new viewers long-term.
"This is a rare opportunity to show off our people and our product," White said.
WISH's local news ratings saw a 30 percent increase in the days following the Colts' victory over the Patriots, station officials said.
At the very least, thanks to the Colts WISH is likely to generate $2 million to $6 million more in advertising revenue in the two weeks leading up to and immediately following the big game in Miami, industry experts said.
The local affiliate has between 15 and 20 30-second spots to sell during the network broadcast. WISH also is packaging those ads with spots immediately preceding and following the network coverage and with spots during its other newscasts and Super Bowl specials.
CBS sells and keeps the cash for most of the spots during the national telecast. But each affiliate is given a number of spots to sell during the national pre-game, Super Bowl and post-game telecast. In all, CBS will air about 10 hours of Super Bowl-related programming Feb. 4.
Before the Colts punched their ticket for the Super Bowl, WISH was asking between $80,000 and $100,000 for a fourspot package, which included two pregame ads, one during the game and one post-game, media buyers said. Following the Colts' victory over the New England Patriots for the AFC title, the price shot up considerably, media buyers said.
Though WISH officials declined to divulge ad prices, media buyers said a single, local 30-second spot anywhere near the Super Bowl broadcast is going for well over $50,000-increasing the package price to more than $200,000. National spots, by contrast, cost over $2 million each.
TV ad prices are not unlike stock prices for publicly traded companies, fluctuating day-to-day based on supply and demand. WISH's White said ad sales following the Colts AFC championship game victory were brisk. He expects advertising inventory for Colts-related shows to be a sell-out.
The TV ratings for this year's Colts' playoff run already are showing this will be a far greater windfall for the local market than previous Super Bowls. The Colts' Super Bowl opponent, the longtime regional favorite Chicago Bears, also will help spike ratings.
"The ratings for both AFC and NFC Championship games indicate the TV viewership for this year's Super Bowl will be off the chart in this market," said longtime Indianapolis-based media buyer Bill Perkins.
Sixty-nine percent of central Indiana TV households-about 567,100-watched the Colts beat the Patriots on Jan. 21, and 57 percent watched the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints earlier that day in the NFC Championship.
"Those numbers are far bigger than last year's Super Bowl," Perkins said. "It's unheard of. The Colts game represents the biggest TV ratings I've ever seen in my entire life."
Perkins predicts up to 80 percent of the market will watch the Super Bowl. Almost 64 percent of central Indiana TV households tuned in last year.
But the other local stations have not ceded game coverage to WISH. WTHR also reported double-digit news ratings increases following the AFC championship, and Channel 13 and other local stations are aggressively following the Colts story.
"There are opportunities for all of us," Pegram said.
"It's not life and death, but this is arguably the biggest news story of the year," Ball State's Gustafson said. "This is a real opportunity for these stations to showcase their news product to a whole new audience, and the investment they're making shows what's at stake."