Attack Strategy Fueled Fox41 Through Recession, Lamb Says

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Fox41's Bill Lamb at the Breakfast of Champions

This morning Bill Lamb told all us Champion Breakfasters how Fox41 survived and prospered during the economic slide of 2009 by cultivating loyalty and getting aggressive.

The Fox41 GM, who’s been there nine years, said that while his competitors were cutting back and laying off staff, he held a meeting in 2009 and told his staff that there would be no layoffs, but that they would be required to “bring it” every day at work. And that move, more than anything, cultivated a culture of loyalty.

The slide in TV news began after the 2008 election money dried up, and in late 2008 stations were starting to scramble. He said that cutting is a tactic employed by mediocre managers, and that he didn’t want to have to rehire new staff when the economy rebounded. But Fox41 didn’t just keep its staff in place.

Lamb went out and beefed up programming by buying up syndicated shows from the competition, moves that will start paying off this fall. That’s when Regis & Kelly moves over from WHAS-TV, along with the popular Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  Fox41 is beefing up afternoons with Dr. Phil. It purchased syndicated airings of The Big Bang Theory.  And of course started a local 6:30 newscast, one that Lamb says he pleased with after 2 months.

Lamb added that the station beefed up its equipment, adding HD technology that none of the other stations in town can match. He said that he got some great equipment deals because supplies were ready to negotiate. The “attack” strategy is now paying off, he said.

Fueled by election money, 2008 was Fox41’s most profitable year. Then 2009 wasn’t too bad for Fox41 as the economy tanked. But in 2010, the bottom line was 31 percent better than any other year.

When asked about his Point of View editorials, Lamb said he likes to stir things up, that he really doesn’t care whether or not you agree with him, but that “apathy is the enemy.” He’s done nearly 1,000 of them.

I also asked him about this POV, in which he gives a tribute to retiring WAVE-TV GM Steve Langford.  Lamb said he thought it was the right thing to do, recognizing a competitor who deserved it.

The next Breakfast of Champions is May 9.