Mike Reed, owner of WGBC, is a game-changer

January 2009

Mike Reed has come a long way in 23 years from starting as a sales person in the world of broadcasting. Today, he is the owner of the Meridian NBC affiliate WGBC-TV, which he bought just over a year ago. Reed is also the manager of ABC affiliate WMDN-TV. And he has secured the local FOX affiliate.

On acquiring the FOX affiliate Reed says, “I started thinking about it two months before buying WGBC. I have worked with FOX throughout my career. FOX knows what I can do with a FOX affiliate. A number of people who I’ve worked with in the past are working with me today. This is one more piece of the puzzle that enables me to compete in this market.”

Reed explains, “This is a home run for us. If you look at what we can offer an advertiser now, it is a very powerful package. Take primetime for example, Out of 35 of the top shows we have 30 of the #1 and #2 ranked shows in their time slots.

Reed continues, “As far as sports, we have practically every major event. We now carry the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl every year, as well as SEC football and basketball. We have NCAA Football and most of the major bowls are pleased with this move.”

Reed says, “Looking at us from an advertiser’s eye the only thing we don’t deliver is the news. Everything else we bring to your customer’s home or office. That is very powerful. We are branding ourselves as a one-stop shop.”

Another game-changer for local broadcasting occurs on February 17th with the end of analog television signal broadcasts and the digital television transition.

Reed says, “Right now because we are UHF we are somewhat disadvantaged. UHF traditionally just doesn’t have as good a footprint as VHF. With the digital signal, that disadvantage goes away. There is no significant difference in the footprint with digital broadcasting. Digital is digital. What will happen for the viewer is that the broadcasters will pretty much be on an even playing field.”

Within a year of working in sales at WPDE, Reed was promoted to local sales manager. Within another two years he was the general sales manager. Reed says, “I was there for 12 years. I became general manager in seven years. Then I went to Augusta Georgia to the number one ranked FOX affiliate in the nation. I inherited those numbers. I did not build it to that. But I did make it number one in Augusta. It was number three in the local market. Some people ask how can a station be number one nationally and number three locally. Well the primetime programming made the station number one nationally. What I did was change the other programming to attract more viewers to boost the stations total numbers. We were able to do that in two years time.”

It is that kind of thinking and execution that Reed has used to get him where he is today. Reed explains, “I stayed there for three years. I then was asked to run a FOX affiliate in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was the 99th FOX affiliate in the nation when I arrived. In less than a year it was ranked seventh nationally and it became the number one station in that market. Within three years, we were the most profitable station in that company out of 28 stations. The family who owned it asked me if I would move to corporate and help run the group, which I did for five years. That was when I got an offer to go to Austin. We had a lot of success there. We turned the news into number one. Our 10pm news had been lagging as a number three finisher. We improved the newscasts in the other time slots as well.”

Reed continues, “I still wanted my own station. I wanted it when I began my career and I still wanted it. So I began to put together my own deal. After looking around and a lot of prayer, it was clear that WGBC was the station for me.”

Regarding being a new owner of a business in the current economic climate, Reed says, “We know 2009 is going to be a tough year for our advertisers and us. But our advertisers have been supporting this station for years and it is almost an obligation on our part to help them succeed as much as we can. Without them we have nothing. If we don’t work with them during this tough time then they might not be around in the future. We see our advertisers as partners. We don’t succeed if they don’t succeed. We don’t treat media buying as a commodity. We like the personal relationships. People can buy a commodity over the telephone. We want to be more than a commodity to your advertisers. We want to be a partner.”

Reed has also partnered with the community since living in Meridian. Reed explains, “We have a cash giveaway segment called Cash Call. Viewers can win cash and the segment has a host. We have a good time with it. In November 2008 we partnered with United Way and allowed a United Way agency to host the segments. We gave a donation to the host agency of whatever amount that was won that night by a viewer.”

Reed and his family are in Meridian now. Reed says, “I have one son, Christian, who is 13, and one daughter, Weslyn, who is12. And my bride, Stacie, has been a big help. It’s just really cool that for the first time in my career I get to work with her. This is our baby. It’s our family business. She has taken a community relations role. She came home one day from Wesley House with tears in her eyes. She has been really touched by this community.”

After more than two decades in broadcasting, Mike Reed has his own station. He’s building his American Dream. And he chose to build it in Meridian, Mississippi.