Emmis program creating a 'Buzz': Show gains in other markets, but hasn't caught on locally

June 27, 2005

A syndicated morning news show co-owned by locally based Emmis Communications Corp. is making in-roads nationally but has failed to cause a buzz among viewers locally.

"The Daily Buzz," co-owned by Emmis and California-based ACME Communications Inc., and produced in Orlando, Fla., now airs in 137 markets and has shown increased ratings in several critical markets, including Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; Dallas; and Norfolk, Va.

"We're definitely looking to expand our syndication, and we think we'll be successful because we have a different approach than most other morning news shows," said Troy McGuire, "Daily Buzz" executive producer.

With evening TV news viewership sagging and morning news gaining ground, Emmis officials think they may have a hot new property.

"The Daily Buzz," started by ACME, was originally produced in Dayton and debuted in September 2002. Emmis officials, sensing a growing opportunity in morning news, bought a 50-percent share of the show from ACME in January 2004, and production moved to Orlan- do in August of that year. The show has started in 16 new markets since Emmis bought in, including the local UPN affiliate, WNDY-TV Channel 23. The station began airing "The Daily Buzz" in fall 2004.

The show has yet to catch on here. It has only about half the audience Fox's local morning news has on WXIN-TV Channel 59, and less than 1/10th the audience the CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates have with a combination of local and national news during the same time.

And LIN TV Corp.'s acquisition of WNDY-TV this year casts doubt on "The Daily Buzz's" future in central Indiana. Rhode Island-based LIN also owns local CBS affiliate WISHTV Channel 8. Industry sources predict LIN will fill "The Daily Buzz's" 6-9 a.m. Monday-Friday slot with WISH's local newscast or other programming that would not compete with WISH news.

"'The Daily Buzz' right now in this market is an underperformer in audience delivery," said WISH General Manager Jeff White. "'The Daily Buzz' was brought in to appeal to a younger audience, and it remains to be seen how successful it will be."

Emmis officials said if the show is given an opportunity, it will cash in on a growing trend of younger viewers tuning to morning news programs.

Nightly TV news viewership has declined 44 percent since 1980, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. The nightly news audience declined from 41 million viewers to 29.1 million viewers in the last decade. Meanwhile, Nielsen data shows 14.6 million Americans watch morning newscasts, 1 million more than a decade ago.

Those trends are even stronger among young adults, a key demographic sought by advertisers, said Diane Nichols, media buyer with locally based Perkins Nichols Media.

"The world is changing," Nichols said. "People are so busy now in the afternoons and evenings, and studies show that is more the case with younger people. They're just not watching as much television after work as they once did."

"If you pull the ratings apart, the evening news is definitely skewing older and the morning news is skewing younger," said Frank Friedman, senior vice president and media director in the local office of Optimedia, a division of Publicis. "I think we're getting a view of changing news consumption habits. [Younger people] look for their news before they leave the house in the morning, a quick update on traffic and weather."

"The Daily Buzz" is attracting car dealers, home lenders, debt consolidation companies, retailers, low-cost attorneys and other advertisers largely geared toward a younger audience, McGuire said.

All the show's on-air personalities have radio experience and attempt to attract a younger demographic with a mix of news, features and a heavy dose of humor and ad-lib remarks and jokes.

"Our anchors are more real, more down to earth," said McGuire, a Lafayette native. "That's what appeals to viewers. It's the way we tell the news that sets us apart. Our anchors say the things that the anchors on the national networks think, but would never say. We don't hold back."

Local Fox officials have taken notice of the newcomer. But WXIN News Director Karen Rariden said they haven't changed their focus in the face of the new competition. WXIN began its local newscast six years ago chasing the same demographic as "The Daily Buzz." But there's one big difference, she said.

"We're local, local, local," Rariden said. "'The Daily Buzz' is heavier on entertainment news of more national interest. We're the only morning newscast from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. which is purely local."

Many stations carrying "The Daily Buzz," McGuire said, were previously airing paid programming or other low viewership fare in the early hours.

"Stations realized that morning inventory they had could be more valuable to them," McGuire said. "Morning news shows are one of the hottest properties right now."

Stations that carry "The Daily Buzz" pay an annual license fee. Emmis and ACME get to sell a small block of national advertisements, but local stations get the bulk of inventory-26 30-second spots per hour-to sell.

Locally, ad sales have been lukewarm.

"I think the big question is, do people want local or national TV news content in the morning?" Nichols said. "I tend to think they want more local news. People want to know how to dress for the weather and what the traffic on the way to work will be."

And young people especially want to know about the local entertainment scene, Friedman said.

"They're up against a pretty solid local Fox morning newscast, but I still think there's a place for 'The Daily Buzz,'" Friedman said. "We're chasing the audience with the morning news now and a show like 'The Daily Buzz' gives advertisers more choices to target the right demographic."
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