Banking on growth - Broadcasting & Cable

Banking on growth

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When you talk to business people in Charlotte, N.C., you get the feeling that this seemingly smaller market is poised for bigger things. Already the largest city in the state, it continues to grow and has become a major force in the banking industry with First Union and Bank of America. "For the past 10 years, Charlotte was the second-fastest-growing city in America," says Stuart Powell, GM of WCNC-TV. "A lot of people are moving in, sometimes as many as 25,000 TO 30,000 a year," he continues, "and these are people who don't have the same [TV-viewing] habits as the folks already here, so it's changing and shifting the [television] landscape."

It's an interesting landscape—there are seven commercial stations, two duopolies, three 10 p.m. newscasts and three female general managers—and one that promises to change again in the near future. The major cable operator, Time Warner, plans to introduce a 24-hour news channel by next March. Cable already is a "very good competitor," Powell says, and "the news channel will probably be the next biggest thing that will happen in terms of competition."

But on the sales side, says Mary MacMillan, GM of WBTV, "our national market was down almost 23% from first quarter last year. And second quarter, it's down 18.3%. Those are tough numbers to work against. Local is OK, it was off a little in the first quarter—minus 2.5%—and second quarter is up 3.3%, so you can't call it robust, but if you roll those two together, it's slightly positive."

Conversations about the city all come back to growth. Says Powell: "We are about to overtake a couple of other markets. I think the next five to 10 years are really going to dictate whether we become big-market broadcasters."

Correction:

In the July 16 Focus, WUVN Hartford-New Haven, Conn., was incorrectly identified as an independent station. It is a Univision affiliate.

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