In Charlotte, it's all about the money. The 28th-largest television market ranks second only to New York as a financial center. Its hometown banks, Bank of America and Wachovia, control $1.2 trillion in assets. More than 10,000 startups materialized in the past decade, bringing $6.5 billion in new investment. Such prosperity is at the heart of TV revenue growth: Total market revenue is expected to rise about 10% this year to $196 million.
Adding to the TV coffers in 2004 are political dollars. Senate races in two states (the Charlotte DMA encompasses four South Carolina counties) and the emergence of vice-presidential candidate John Edwards (D-N.C.) have fattened local TV pockets.
One constant: WSOC, Cox Broadcasting's ABC affiliate, has dominated the TV market for the past 15 years. It enjoys far more revenue than its rivals, ringing up an estimated $51.7 million last year, according to BIA.
WSOC won every daypart (total households) in May and took first place in nearly every news slot. WBTV (CBS), owned by North Carolina-based Jefferson Pilot, plays runner-up in most news programming, with Belo's WCNC (NBC) a distant third.
Bahakel's Fox station, WCCB, won a crowded 10 p.m. news race in May over Cox-owned independent WAXN and Capitol Broadcasting's UPN affiliate, WJZY. Capitol also owns WB station WWWB. Cox, however, has developed a potent combo. WSOC airs Oprah
and Dr. Phil
during the day; WAXB re-runs the shows that night.
Of special note, Charlotte's viewing habits run counter to the national average. Prime time hits like Everybody Loves Raymond
and The Apprentice
don't do as well. Audiences prefer The Bachelor
and Cold Case
. "This market goes against the grain again and again," says WSOC General Manager Lee Armstrong. Time Warner controls most of the cable business. Cable penetration stands at 68%, with subscriber counts remaining flat. Last month, Time Warner took sole ownership and operation of News 14 Carolina, when business partner Belo Corp. pulled out.
Several large car dealerships have opened recently, and a new pro basketball team begins its season this fall. Armstrong sees both as signs of the market's continuing economic strength: "Charlotte's potential is enormous."