Corn-Fed No More


Local Flavor

Every four years, Des Moines, Iowa, is guaranteed a place in the national sun. The state's political caucuses attract the keen eye of publicity to this bucolic area—and dump a ton of ad money into the market.

"We have had some very good political revenue, starting way back in August and September," says Jim Boyer, vice president and general manager at New York Times Co.-owned WHO.

In the economy overall, an agriculture base has morphed into financial-services, education, and health-care industries. The state's largest employer, Iowa State University, lies within the market. Des Moines is home to more than 50 insurance companies and two of the country's biggest mortgage firms.

Says Boyer, "There is corn here, but you have to go pretty far outside Des Moines to find it."

On the local-news front, Hearst-Argyle's KCCI has dominated ratings for most of the past decade and is consistently one of the highest-rated CBS affiliates in the country. Its late newscast pulled a Super Bowl-like 19 rating/38 share (total households) in November.

"This station has a history of aggressive, hard-hitting news coverage from a staff that puts roots down in this community," says KCCI News Director Dave Busiek, a 25-year veteran of the station.

Trailing both KCCI and WHO is Citadel-owned WOI, traditionally a distant third in both total-week and news ratings. Pappas's KPWB and Sinclair's KDSM have tussled for fourth in total week for two years.

KPWB signed on in 2001 and has steadily gained ground, thanks to a solid lineup of syndicated shows like Friends, Will & Grace, and That '70s Show. DirecTV last month added KPWB to its package of local channels. The station is still negotiating with Dish Network.

"We are glad to have cleared one hurdle," says KPWB Vice President and General Manager Debra Corson.

Cable penetration in the market is slightly over 55%, one of the lowest levels among top-75 markets. Satellite penetration, on the other hand, is extraordinarily high, about 23%.

Another sign of the market's move away from the farm.

The Demos
Not a lot of ethnic diversity here. The population is 95% white. Iowans like their outdoor activities, particularly fishing and camping. Surfing, the Internet kind, hasn't caught on: Only 10% of households have a broadband connection.
Who Share of pop. Index*
Source: Scarborough Research 2003 Release 1 Multi-Market (Feb. '02-March '03)
*Index is a measurement of consumer likelihood. An index of 100 indicates that the market is on par with the average of the 75 local markets.
NM = Not large enough to be measured
**Activities engaged in past 12 months
18-34 30% 95
18-49 59% 94
25-54 55% 93
35+ 71% 102
Married 58% 105
Never married 23% 88
College grad 21% 90
White 95% 116
Black NM NM
Asian NM NM
Hispanic NM NM
$100K+ HH 9% 60
$50K+ HH 40% 82
Below $50K HH 60% 117
Camping 26% 134
Fishing 34% 162
Tennis 3% 51
Interested in NASCAR 24% 126
Interested in PGA golf 23% 123
Own residence 74% 110