The broadcast division had its best year ever. Operating income rose 4.6 percent to $171.2 million, from $163.7 million in 1998. Excluding the effect of the WFSB/WKMG trade, completed in September 1998, division operating income rose 7.0 percent. The stations' revenues increased 5.7 percent, buoyed by better-than-expected political revenues in all of the Post-Newsweek markets.
WDIV-Detroit maintained the top position in its market in 1998. The station was number one in all dayparts and all news blocks, making WDIV Detroit's most-watched news organization. WDIV was chosen by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters as Station of the Year and received the General Excellence award from the Associated Press.
After Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, WDIV organized a massive relief effort that generated an enormous response from the community. Some 125 tons of supplies were donated in six days. The station brought in a local retailer for collection sites, the Detroit Pistons contributed their team jet, and Northwest Airlines supplied a 747 to make what became known as "The Flight of Champions." Two days before Thanksgiving, WDIV crews documented the delivery of the donated supplies to Honduras.
KPRC-Houston was the number-one television station in Houston in the crucial May ratings sweeps--sign-on to sign-off--for the first time in more than 20 years.
KPRC's growing local news operation received several major awards that recognize excellence in journalism, including five regional Emmys, more than any other Houston station. KPRC also won the best newscast award from the Houston Press Club for the third consecutive year and received three Katie Awards from the Dallas Press Club.
WPLG-Miami-Ft. Lauderdale continues to deliver the largest audiences in daytime, early news, access, and late news programs among the English-language stations. WPLG also finished number one, sign-on to sign-off, among that same group. WLTV, a Spanish-language station, moved ahead of all stations in the market in audience ratings.
Highlights of WPLG's news programming in 1998 included live coverage of Pope John Paul's historic visit to Cuba, the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, and the corruption scandal that rocked the Miami city government. WPLG's strong commitment to community service was further solidified in the station's Town Hall Meetings, featuring live, in-studio audiences. One provided the first and most-watched live debate between gubernatorial candidates Jeb Bush and Buddy MacKay, which also was broadcast simultaneously to a statewide network of stations.
WKMG-Orlando weathered killer tornadoes and rampant wildfires while continuing to work on the basics: building and branding WKMG's unique news elements and developing a strong management team.
WKMG created a strategy to dominate local weather coverage in a volatile weather area, including acquiring Doppler radar and installing live weather stations and cameras throughout the area. As part of its strategy to improve news coverage, KMG updated its entire on-air look and debuted a state-of-the-art news set.
KSAT-San Antonio continued for the fifth consecutive year to dominate the market in local news and local programming. Strong key younger demographics continue to generate revenue growth for the station.
In late summer KSAT broadcast 30 additional hours of live programming to cover the worst floods in South Texas in over 100 years, including a live two-hour phone-in show enabling viewers to speak with relief organizations.
WJXT-Jacksonville thrived during a year of tumult, relishing the return of the NFL to CBS, and the Jaguars to JXT, as well as the changeover from a Nielsen diaried market to a metered one--a transition that has proved a ratings disaster for many long-time market leaders. WJXT emerged victorious, not only dominating local news time periods but earning the highest ratings in the nation among metered markets for its 6 p.m. Eyewitness News.
For the second consecutive year, WJXT was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence from the Radio-Television News Directors Association.
I'm a child of television. These images wallpaper my childhood memories: Dave Garroway and Jack Lescoulie on "Today," the Saturday night fights with Floyd Patterson, Bret and Bart Maverick, Mighty Mouse ("Here I come to save the daaaaay!"), and, of course, Ed Sullivan; my favorite act was that juggler spinning plates on long sticks to the high-speed Saber Dance music. (Can you hear it?)
When I was six, and crowned "Miss Poppy," I was featured on a Peoria TV kids' show. That did it, opening the door to my destiny: to one day become the VP/Station Manager of WJXT-TV 4, working for the best company on the planet, and living in the best town in America.
My beloved TV station celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year, and for the past 20 years, it's been an honor to be part of this extraordinary station, this extraordinary company. Since the day I walked in the door, I've known that leadership is the mandate. That's personified by Bill Ryan and prevails at each Post-Newsweek station. Performance expectations are high. And we thrive on that challenge, especially when grappling with change. During my career at PNS, there's been plenty.
In 1979 the plate-spinning act in Jacksonville was simple: there were just three commercial stations. Cable was not a factor. Our ratings dominance was mind-boggling, yet we never took it for granted. During those days, I was proud to create news promotion campaigns that helped us generate 50+ shares of audience.
Wow! Times have changed! Today, Jacksonville is served by eight stations, and cable has wired 73 percent of the market, with nearly 100 channels. Jacksonville is booming. Our population is past the million mark, we're the proud fans of a successful NFL franchise, and national magazines rank our city as one of the most livable. The influx of newcomers here is outpacing the rest of the state.
In the broadcast world, WJXT has always been the one constant amid market confusion and commotion. Our dominance originates from decades of Washington Post ownership and our adherence to high journalistic standards, as well as a commitment to our community. It has earned us long-term viewer loyalty in a market where competing stations have swapped network affiliations, changed ownership, and suffered chronic talent turnover. Today, the competitors are owned by established broadcast groups who have invested the resources to produce a competitive product. People moving to Jacksonville grew up on the other networks, not our CBS. We are challenged to attract newcomers to our station.
So we innovate. We reinvest in our core business and contemporize that precious product that distinguishes us: local news. Just as WJXT pioneered animated weather graphics and the tower cam, we lead in weather technology and boost our live trucks with "eagle eye" mast-cameras. Our studio provides a vibrant, high-tech setting for the longest-running four-person anchor team in America. Custom promotion campaigns stick in your head like the Saber Dance music. On-air announcements are supplemented with creative use of new media including e-mail and the Internet. No sitting on our laurels here. We're very aggressive in protecting and growing our leadership position.
This year we faced our biggest change yet. Our market converted from Nielsen's diary system to meters. Meters: notorious for diminishing dynamic stations. Doomsday prophets predicted WJXT would topple. The competition smacked its lips in anticipation.
Not so! As the "overnights" document each morning, WJXT remains the market leader! Our newscast of record at 6 p.m. is watched by 32 percent of the market's viewers, and is the number-one ranked newscast among all "metered" markets in the country. We deliver the number-one Dan Rather program in the nation and we overperform CBS' prime time by 13 percent. Our sign-on/sign-off viewership is at a remarkable 21 percent. That's day-in and day-out performance.
What about breaking news coverage in this new, metered world? Last June we tackled one of our toughest news events: in an insidious about-face of nature, summer's afternoon thunderstorms were replaced by terrifying fire storms. For days the wildfires seared through our neighboring communities. Water was rationed. Skies took on a wartime look, sooty in daylight, glowing red at night. WJXT's news operations stayed with it, around the clock, delivering tireless, quality coverage. The new meters confirmed what was true then is still true today: when news happens, folks tune to WJXT-TV…yes, even the newcomers. Our ratings actually exceeded our competition combined. That's what being a Post-Newsweek station is all about.
Embrace change? It's more like waltzing with it--as long as we can lead. From my station's 50-year perspective, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And after 20 years, I am still thrilled to be a child of television--Post-Newsweek television.