Trying to Bring Back a Station Back from the Dead


For years WKBW dominated the Buffalo market. 

At one point in time, the ABC affiliate was the highest rated local station in the country. 

But now, WKBW is stuck in last place and no matter what it can't seem to get out of that spot. 

So, how does a station go from first to worst?

In two words, Granite Broadcasting. 

In it's heyday, WKBW was owned by Capital Cities, a company that believed to make money, you must spend money. The station had Irv, Rick and Tom and a cast of solid Reporters that covered not only Buffalo, but the world. 

Irv, was legendary Anchor Irv Weinstein. Rick was well know Sports Anchor Rick Azar and Tom was the longtime Weather Anchor Tom Jolls. The team was together for years and each one of them was so well known that they all referred to just by their first name. 

But, Irv and Rick retired and they were followed by Tom and at that point the station had been sold and Granite Broadcasting came in, and cut the place to the bone. 

No company has ever cut their way to prosperity, yet for some reason, TV stations try and do it all the time. They try to do more with less and then are wondering why it didn't work out? 

Granite, lead by General Manager Bill Ransom cut WKBW so badly that there was not a drop of blood left. 

Anchors were paid nothing, Reporters were hired as cheaply as possible and the station gave up spending any money. 

At one point in time, WKBW would send Reporters to Poland or Italy to chase down a story. With Granite and Bill Ransom, you were lucky if you could go to Dunkirk. 

Granite sold WKBW to Scripps years ago. Scripps is competing against a Tegna station and a Nexstar station. You would have thought that they would have restored the station back to No. 1 by now. But, it hasn't happened. 

It's not Scripps fault, they have made better hires and started trying to bring the station back from the dead. It has been a very long climb. 

Granite ran the station so far into the ground that even years later, WKBW has not recovered. 

The station aired the Buffalo Bills preseason opener against Carolina on Aug. 9th and it got almost a 22 rating. 

The newscast that followed the game got a 6.6 rating. 

Despite that lead in, WKBW was only able to beat the Nexstar station WIVB by a .3 rating. The Tegna station was last with a 4.8 rating. 

It was a very rare win for WKBW, but it still lost almost 75 percent of its game audience.

Both the Tegna station and the Nexstar station saw their news ratings go up from their lead-in. WKBW dropped like a rock. 

Now, there is no doubt that Scripps could do more and spend more to help the station out. But, this station was so cratered by Granite you still have to wonder if it would work? 

There are a number of stations across the country looking for main Anchors, Reporters, Photographers and Producers. They might have a great, well qualified hire that has applied for the job, but that isn't who they will hire. 

The News Director will be told by corporate to hire the cheaper person and this will start the station on a path from which they will find very hard to recover from. 

Don't believe me? Look at WKBW which at one time was the highest rated station in the country and now can't even beat a Nexstar or a Tegna station. 

You can't cut your way to prosperity, businesses inside and outside TV have tried it for years. It doesn't work and no matter how much you try to prove it won't. 

Think about that next time you make that hire. 

The job you might save, might very well be your own.