Market Eye: Charleston, S.C.

DMA #97 pumped by Boeing arrival

Tourism drives the economy in Charleston, S.C.; pleasureseekers are drawn to the abundant charm of the waterfront city and its famously warm residents. An expansion of Charleston’s port has allowed more and larger cruise ships to pull into the market, giving DMA No. 97 a healthy boost. “When we see tourism up big, it’s big for everyone,” says WCSC VP/General Manager Rita Littles Scott.

Invigorated tourism isn’t the only development Charleston is celebrating these days. Boeing announced last fall that it’s opening a major jet assembly plant in North Charleston; the facility will employ not only manufacturers but a signifi cant number of white-collar managers, some of whom have already arrived to find housing. “It’s a real boost for the economy,” says WCIV President/General Manager Suzanne Teagle.

Raycom’s WCSC is the ratings champ in Charleston. The CBS affiliate took all of the major races in November, including the 11 p.m. battle with a 7.4 household rating/23.3 share, well ahead of Media General-owned WCBD’s 2.8 rating/8.7 share. Cunningham’s Fox affiliate WTAT did a 4.6 rating/9.6 share with its 10 p.m. news; it shares infrastructure with Sinclair’s MyNetworkTV affiliate WMMP.

A diary market, Charleston will get February sweeps results toward the end of March. Despite WCBD airing the Olympics, Littles Scott expects WCSC to hold onto its ratings primacy, thanks to anchor longevity, a booming primetime and broad reach across the market. “We cover not just Charleston, but all of the DMA,” she says.

WCSC seeks to expand its reach with the digital channel Live 5 Plus, which debuted in January, but the competition is hardly idle. Runner-up WCBD, which uses its own digital tier to air The CW, replaced an 11 a.m. news with the longerform/ lighter fare My News 2. Allbritton’s ABC outlet WCIV is ramping up its game with Ellen and Dr. Oz leading into early evening news, which Teagle says connects with guy/girl-next-door talent and a non-sensational approach. “We’re fighting hard and making inroads,” she says.

Stations are anticipating a robust 2010 political season, due in large part to departing governor Mark Sanford, who famously was off the grid for several days last summer while canoodling with an Argentine “soulmate” who was not his wife. “The gubernatorial race will generate a lot of excitement and a lot of interest,” says WCBD VP/General Manager Rick Lipps.

After the rough recent economic slump, it all adds up to high optimism in what’s known as Low Country. “A lot of positives are going on,” Lipps says. “Once we get over this economic debacle, we’ll be poised for the long haul.”