All Eyes on the SkiesIn West Palm Beach, weather is huge 4/10/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Florida Beach Party for Viacom
On this sunny stretch of Florida's east coast, the threat of
hurricanes is always top-of-mind, and with good reason. Last September, two
major hurricanes within three weeks battered the West Palm Beach area, and
stations were pushed to the limit. Broadcasters maintained live coverage, even
as they battled damage to their own buildings. News of the storms and their
aftermath dominated newscasts for months.
Now, with the 2005 hurricane season fast approaching (June 1-Nov. 30),
local broadcasters in the 39th-largest TV market say they will be ready.
“Weather is huge here,” says Brian Lawlor, VP/GM for Scripps Howard NBC
affiliate WPTV, the market's top-rated station. “Even with all our years as
No. 1, if we are not there for a hurricane, it is over.” After losing its
weather radar tower in the storms, WPTV recently switched on a new
Freedom Broadcasting's CBS affiliate WPEC and Hearst-Argyle–owned
ABC affiliate WPBF want to work weather to their advantage, too. WPEC, the
second-placed news station, recently upgraded its weather radar, and WPBF now
begins its news with forecasts.
The market stretches from tony Boca Raton north to booming Treasure
Coast and Fort Pierce. Per-capita income averages about $24,729, just slightly
less than San Francisco, the city with the highest average, according to
Demographics USA. West Palm is also growing, so construction and retail are
thriving. WPEC Station Manager Donn Colee says last fall's storms have not
hurt the economy: “Tourism is through the roof, and housing prices are
In 2004, local broadcasters pulled in $132.5 million in gross revenues,
according to BIA. Heavy campaign spending helped, but the market is just
healthy. Auto spending is strong; even Mercedes, Jaguar and Rolls Royce are
In the news arena, WPTV has long been dominant. That success continued
in February, when the station won the key morning, early-evening and late
newscasts. To keep its edge, Lawlor says, WPTV is building up its investigative
team and hyping its weather gear.
Competitors are making inroads. WPEC, bolstered by CBS' prime time
lineup, is improving, and WPBF is up at 11 p.m., thanks to ABC's resurgence.
The Raycom-owned Fox affiliate WFLX offers a 10 p.m. news.
WPBF is trying another tactic to turn viewers' heads: Last spring, the
station introduced a 6 and 11 p.m. anchor team comprising three women, an
unusual grouping for any market. “It was an opportunity to do something
groundbreaking,” says GM Viki Regan, who's also the market's only female
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Release 75 Markets Report 2004