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Middle of the Road

Salt Lake is religiously steady 6/24/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Broadcasters in Salt Lake City, the nation’s 36th-largest TV market, hope good times are around the corner. So far in 2005, the local ad economy has been flat, in part due to lower automotive spending. But other categories—notably, furniture, banking and telecommunications—are beginning to pick up and should push ad spending; stations expect small gains.

Salt Lake City has “everything from farming to high-tech to tourism,” says Dave Phillips, general manager for CBS-owned-and-operated KUTV. “It is a broad base, and we have a tendency not to hit economic highs or lows.”

That steadiness is evident in market revenue. In 2004, stations here took in $155.1 million in gross revenue, up 5% from 2003, according to BIA Financial. This year, BIA projects $159.8 million gross revenue, a 3% gain.

The market’s sensibility is similarly tempered. Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and, today, about half the residents are Mormon, giving the city a conservative bent.

The church owns KSL, the NBC affiliate through Bonneville International Corp. The station carries performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and televises the church’s annual General Conference; these are two of its highest-rated programs of the year. “We do Super Bowl-type numbers,” says VP/General Manager Bruce Christiansen, “sometimes as high as a 45 rating.”

But, he adds, the station maintains an independent news operation. “We are not a news arm or a PR arm for the church,” he says. “We operate like any other commercial station.”

KSL is the market’s leader in evening and late news, dominating at 10 p.m. for 40 years. Its main anchor, Dick Nourse, is a 40-year station veteran.

KSL has formidable opponents. KUTV, which recently promoted Assistant News Director Tanya Vea to news director, is No. 2 in late news and wins early-morning and noon news. In May, it was the market’s most-watched station. In 2006, KUTV will add The Oprah Winfrey Show to its schedule, a powerful afternoon news lead-in.

ABC affiliate KTVX programs 3.5 hours of news per day on weekdays, while Fox O&O KSTU airs a three-hour morning show, Good Day Utah, and an hour newscast at 9 p.m. Late-news ratings for all four stations are high.

Comcast Cable is the region’s primary cable operator. However, because of the vast rural expanses of the Salt Lake City region, many areas are not wired for cable. As a result, cable penetration is low, at 43%, while satellite usage is above average, at 30%.

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The Demos
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 local markets.
Source: Scarborough Release 2004 75 Markets Report
White 95% 116
Black 1% 12
Hispanic 1% 25
Asian 9% 65