How unknown? Your new chief meteorologist’s first day on air is the first day of the sweep.
Even your creative services director is new, just a few months on the job.
Yet despite those obstacles, WHEC, Hubbard Broadcasting’s NBC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., was the No. 1 newscast at 11 p.m. in adults 25-54 in the November 2017 sweeps.
How the station earned that success is the real story.
“The entire front line evening anchor team, all four slots, this past November, were new, including our chief meteorologist,” said Casey Clark, WHEC’s news director.
“His first day on the air was the first day of the November book. He’d only arrived in town two days before.”
Kevin Kalvitis, the station’s creative services director and new to the station himself, said people who were on the air a long time were gone.
“There was a lot of change, I’ve been starting from the ground up now.”
Kalvitis’ expectations for the month, despite the challenges having unknown talent can present, were remarkably lofty.
“November was to ‘let’s maintain’ and try to win the 11. With the strong NBC lead-in, put some really strong stories at 11, work on our topicals and sweeps promos, and hopefully that translates into a bump at 11, and hopefully people keep their TVs tuned-in when they go to bed and tune us back on when they wake up in the morning.”
Remarkably, that’s exactly what happened. WHEC also won adults 25-54 for its two hours of local news in the morning in November.
To win both the 11 p.m. news and the morning news, Clark said his team had to concentrate on the station’s brand, which “is different than everyone else’s in town.”
“We really focused on who we were the whole time, we are a hard news investigative shop. We stuck to our guns and stayed true to who we are.”
Clark moved some familiar franchise reports to different nights, and added some others.
“That gave us three solid nights of good stories.”
Kalvitis drew up a focused outside cable buy, targeting only 10 to 11 p.m.
“A strategic move on our part and that seemed to pay off as well,” said Kilvitis.
He targeted that same hour on the station’s Facebook page and boosted the stories he was promoting. The anchors and reporters took to Facebook Live in that same hour talking about the different stories they had coming up at 11.
“People are watching for our content because they don’t know who our people are,” said Clark.
NOTE: I’ve known Casey Clark since my days working at WINK, the CBS affiliate in Ft. Myers, Fla. Although this is Clark’s first time as the news director, he has extensive experience as a producer, executive producer and assistant news director in markets including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle and West Palm Beach.
Clark was adamant about giving credit to his assistant news director at WHEC, Dave Overacker.
“My assistant news director is dynamite, has been here more than 25 years, and is the stabilizing force behind everything. He handles the day-to-day editorial and I try to get the obstacles out of his way.”
And for the record, WHEC’s anchor team at 11 comprises Brett Davidsen, Jennifer Mobilia, Rich Donnelly with sports, and Chief Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell.