In an era when local broadcasters feel financially squeezed from nearly every direction, an Oklahoma City station has turned to an old-fashioned programming strategy to make some new-style money.
Hearst-Argyle-owned ABC affiliate KOCO-TV generated more than $100,000 in profit from its recent locally produced special “Oklahoma’s Ultimate Makeover,” in which women underwent plastic surgery to achieve a new look. The station brought several new advertisers on board for the program.
Many of those advertisers-Lasik doctors, plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists-don’t typically buy on-air spots. The show was a chance to lure them to the station and generate so-called “nontraditional revenue,” said Dominique Homsey Gross, sales marketing manager for the station.
“This is one of the most aggressive approaches to nontraditional revenue,” she said. “The sponsors that did all of the work [on the women] pay to be part of the show.” Local area sponsors included Oklahoma University Medical Center, Smile Solutions and TLC Lasik Eye Centers. Other sponsors included a local hair salon, a spa and a body toning center.
Local broadcasting has its roots in local programming, while brand integration is a recent advertising phenomenon.
The story of two Oklahoma women who went under the knife to have their faces, eyes, eyebrows, noses, lips, breasts and cheeks redone was the highest-rated locally produced entertainment program in Oklahoma City history, said Matt Laws, creative services director at the station. It generated an 8.4 household rating and a 12 share March 23 and a 6.2/10 on its encore presentation two nights later, according to Nielsen Media Research. About 219,000 people total watched the show, exceeding expectations.
On the Wednesday night first episode, the show aired at 9 p.m. (CT), pre-empting “Wife Swap,” which has averaged a 7 household rating. But KOCO replayed “Wife Swap” over the weekend. “Oklahoma’s Ultimate Makeover”-a takeoff on ABC’s prime-time hit “Extreme Makeover”-marked the first time the station has pre-empted prime-time programming for a locally produced special.
Based on the ratings and financial success, KOCO has begun planning the second installment of “Oklahoma’s Ultimate Makeover” with the next casting call slated for May and the show to air sometime in the summer.
The station is also prepping for a local twist on another ABC show when it runs “5’s Home Team” in late June. The half-hour show, inspired by ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will feature a local family getting its home redone Local advertisers integrated into the KOCO show are furniture companies; siding, flooring and roofing purveyors; audio and home theater suppliers and construction firms, Ms. Homsey Gross said.
“Even though the concept has been done before, we do it a little differently,” Mr. Laws said. “We go more into the story of the family and the depth of Oklahoma. We are trying to showcase that Oklahoma has phenomenal plastic surgeons, phenomenal construction companies.”
While national cable and broadcast networks often require an advertiser to place media buys to be integrated into a show, KOCO does not. “The majority of our nontraditional revenue has nothing to do with spot buys,” Ms. Homsey Gross said.
This style of local programming is a chance for local advertisers to participate in a bigger way than they can through 30-second spots, said Gordon Borrell, president of Borrell Associates, a research and consulting firm focusing on local media. After all, a local plastic surgeon isn’t going to find a brand integration opportunity with a national network.
“[Local programming] is a wonderful untapped niche that all broadcasters ought to be pursuing,” Mr. Borrell said. “You will find a lot of advertisers that are tired of buying lots of 30-second spots or a handful of 3by5s in a newspaper, and a chance to integrate into a program makes sense. This is a way for particularly the bigger advertiser to be a part of something exciting rather than just run adjacent.”
Other Hearst-Argyle stations are expected to follow KOCO’s lead and introduce more local programming. Many already do. Hearst-Argyle’s ABC affiliate in Milwaukee, WISN-TV, has garnered strong ratings for its locally produced newsmagazine “On Assignment.” The group’s NBC station WLWT-TV in Cincinnati has crafted local specials on the Busch Series auto races, while CBS station KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, has created local weather specials, said Marv Danielski, VP of marketing and creative services for the station group.
He said Hearst-Argyle stations are not looking to pre-empt their syndicated shows, but will look for appropriate opportunities to offer more locally produced content.
Brent Hensley, the president and general manager of KOCO, said local programming is a necessity for stations. “It’s our obligation as local broadcasters. We are given the opportunity and the obligation to serve our local communities, and the network may not always fulfill that obligation, whether for sports or news,” he said.
This summer KOCO will invite sponsors to join its “On the Road” promotion when it takes its newscasts into various Oklahoma communities as another way to generate nontraditional revenue.
“You will see a lot from KOCO and new ideas and new concepts coming around the pike,” Mr. Laws said. “We will be the most aggressive station in Oklahoma and probably one of the most aggressive in the country. … This is definitely a new revenue stream for us that has proven to be profitable for the station and the partners.”