Providing Stiff Competition
Big ratings battles in little Rhode Island
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/24/2005 8:00:00 PM
Broadcast battles in New York and Boston may get more attention, but the Providence, R.I.-New Bedford, Mass., market, tucked between the two metropolis markets, is home to a similarly competitive TV scene.
Nielsen's 49th-largest TV market covers all of Rhode Island, plus Bristol County in southeast Massachusetts. It is a prosperous swath of New England, with soaring real-estate prices.
WJAR attracts the most viewers and advertising dollars in the market. An NBC-owned station, it is the long-time leader in news and overall ratings, and the recent May ratings book was no exception. In 2004, WJAR took in $39.2 million in gross revenue, according to BIA Financial, nearly as much as the Fox, CBS and ABC affiliates combined. Overall, Providence stations collected $90.4 million last year, according to BIA, up from $81 million in 2003.
The local economy is aided by tourists drawn to the area's beaches and Providence's rehabbed downtown, as well as by students attending such schools as Brown and Providence College. WJAR President/General Manager Lisa Churchville says the tourists and students are essential to the market's well-being: “They keep a nice economic level going.”
Providence-based LIN Television, the 23rd-largest station group, owns CBS affiliate WPRI and operates Fox affiliate WNAC under a local-marketing agreement. The stations share news operations but have separate sales staffs. To take on WJAR, LIN is investing in the joint news operation, including a new $2 million helicopter (the market's lone chopper) and beefed-up staffing. “We use the power of both stations,” says President/General Manager Jay Howell. “It allows us to have more reporters on the street.”
The efforts are paying off. Although WJAR is solidly out in front, WPRI is chipping away. Bolstered by CBS' hot prime time, its news ratings are rising.
ABC affiliate WLNE is a distant third in 11 p.m. news, although new anchor Walter Cryan, a WPRI veteran who came out of retirement to anchor WLNE's 6 p.m. news, is attracting attention. WLNE operates Rhode Island Cable News with Cox Cable. Cox and Comcast are the area's main cable companies. Viacom owns WLWC, a joint UPN/WB affiliate, which runs UPN's prime time and The WB shows at 10 p.m. and on weekends. This fall, WLWC will air Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball games.
WJAR and WPRI are facing off in a new area: 24/7 weather networks. In 2004, WPRI launched its Pinpoint Weather Station, which is carried on digital cable in Rhode Island and on the station's digital multicast signal. WJAR carries a version of NBC's Weather Plus on its digital channel. Churchville says Comcast will add the channel in late July and Cox should follow by September.
|Who||Share of population||Index*|
|*Index is a measurement of consumer likelihood. An
index of 100 indicates that the market is on par with the average of the 75
Source: Scarborough Release 2004 75 Markets Report
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