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Reality TV Goes Hyper-Local in Ohio with Lin Media’s ‘The Valley’

The Lin Media station group is taking its hyper-local programming strategy to a new level in the Dayton, Ohio market on Sunday with the premiere of “The Valley.”

The eight-episode series is a reality skein that follows six local high school graduates over the summer as they make the transition to adulthood. The show is produced by Lin’s CW affiliate WBDT-TV, marking a rare contemporary example of locally produced primetime entertainment series. “The Valley” is airing the prime Sunday 8 p.m. berth. (CW does not provide network programming on Saturday and Sunday.)

Lin Media prexy-CEO Vincent Sadusky has no doubt that “The Valley” will perform better than the syndicated shows the station usually airs in the timeslot.

Lin already invests significantly in local news, lifestyle and public affairs programming in its markets, and those shows have demonstrated that viewers respond to programs that feature local people and settings. “The Valley” is a trial balloon that Lin execs hope will lead to similar primetime series in the group’s other markets.

“This will absolutely do better for us on Sunday night than what we have been airing,” Sadusky said. “We’ll learn from it and get feedback. Hopefully this is our experiment to launch many more of these.”

Providence, R.I.-based Lin is poised to grow to a base of 74 stations in 48 markets through its pending merger with Richmond, Va.-based station group Media General.

With that kind of scale, Sadusky sees promise in stations becoming more active in generating locally produced entertainment fare.

“The Valley” proved a strong draw for local advertisers. The show is presented by Dayton Mall, and features healthy doses of product integration in the episodes. Being able to offer a branded programming opportunity allows the station deepen its relationship with key advertisers, Sadusky said.

“We’ve learned a lot from doing those local lifestyle shows that advertisers are really supportive of this kind of programming,” Sadusky said. “This goes beyond selling a 30-second commercial spot. When we can involve them upfront in these programs they get pretty excited about being able to do something different.”

Sadusky credits the skills of the production staffers at WBDT for pulling off a network-style reality show production, which is a different animal than newscasts or magazine-formatted lifestyle shows.

“We’ve got a lot of talented folks who came out of the network world and have experience in this kind of production,” Sadusky said. “A lot of people raised their hand and said they absolutely wanted to this. It became a labor of love for us.”

Sadusky also emphasizes that the effort aims to highlight a hometown station’s ability to connect with viewers. WBDT has mounted a big on-air and off-air promotional effort for “The Valley.” The show is also getting a big push on Lin’s other Dayton stations, NBC affiliate WDTN.

“The uniqueness of local broadcasting is that we can do this kind of thing,” Sadusky said. “People love to be able to see local personalities in their own community.”

Click here to watch a trailer for “The Valley.”

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