Rich in opportunity

There are some big players in the No. 54 DMA. Austin, Texas, television includes two owned-and-operated stations—Fox's KTBC(TV) and CBS's KEYE-TV—and the other affiliate owners aren't little guys either: Market leader and NBC affiliate KXAN-TV is owned by LIN Television, and ABC affiliate KVUE-TV is a Belo station.

But numbers as well as names tell quite a story in Austin. The market is 41st in revenue. Per capita income is high at more than $21,000, and household income is similarly strong. The local NBC, Fox and ABC affiliates all take in household viewership within a few percentage points of each other and revenue within a few million dollars, according to BIA Financial.

Even the 13% drop in market revenue in 2000-01 doesn't detract from the previous 10 years of growth. From 1996 to 2000 alone, according to BIA, market revenue grew nearly $40 million, to a peak of $120 million in 2000. BIA projects nearly $110 million for this year. But in a heavily high-tech economy, thousands of jobs were lost in the past couple years. Manufacturing employment is also down.

Some of Austin's key underlying components protect it from real disaster when the high-tech sector goes south. Austin has several colleges, including the massive University of Texas, a youthful viewership, and a lot of creativity and capital—and is the state capital. There are still high-tech deals to be made, says KXAN-TV and KNVA(TV) GM Gail Brekke, "but business plans have never been more scrutinized."

The market will benefit from several statewide political races, as well as some congressional ones, notes Danny Baker, GM at the strong Fox-owned KTBC—which traces its roots back to LBJ. There are growing film-making and music businesses, Brekke points out. KVUE-TV GM Patti Smith believes there's abundant opportunity for local TV. "This is a strong market with an excellent quality of life."