As the country braces for corporate layoffs in a sagging economy worsened by last month's terrorist attacks, Jackson, Miss., looks forward to the 2003 completion of a new Nissan plant, which will bring about 30,000 jobs to the area.
"That's a huge economic boom," says Dan Modisett, general manager of Jackson's top station, WLBT-TV. "Just like the rest of the country, our economy softened. But that's going to be a real positive for us." The additional jobs will strengthen other Jackson businesses, he hopes, and eventually be "a real catalyst" for the local ad market.
Still, people have the current financial climate on their minds. This week, former Fox station WDBD-TV begins broadcasting as a WB affiliate, which has upset some viewers looking forward to Fox's fall NFL coverage. General Manager Ted Rudolph says Jackson is a big New Orleans Saints town but notes that WB programming "will be what the advertisers want."
Sports fans won't be left in the lurch, he says, because many of Jackson's cable operators are committed to carrying the Fox Sports Net cable channel.
Ad-spending rates "have been off rather consistently from 8% to 10% over the last year," and he looks forward to the Nissan plant's giving Jackson "a nice shot in the arm." With last month's tragedy heavy on people's minds, though, "what 2002 has in store for us is anybody's guess," he says. "I think it's going to be a pretty tough year."
According to Modisett, WLBT-TV has "on the drawing board" the expansion of its news offerings, a reaction to the tragedy. Currently, the station leads Jackson with 42 half-hours of local news, but "there's no question" that news has become a top viewing priority. "The best thing for us to do is to take the events nationally and translate them into how they affect people locally. This is where local stations can shine."