Catching Up, Creatively

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What They Do

Coming off a huge political year in 2002 (an estimated $8 million to $9 million), some stations in the Little Rock, Ark., market say they will be hard pressed to show growth this year. Best-case scenario: 2% to 3%. But the stars would really have to fall into alignment to make that happen.

The '02 political dollars will be hard to make up, but stations are trying hard. KATV(TV) has gotten into the event-creating business, according to President/General Manager Dale Nicholson. Later this month, for example, it is sponsoring a community fair called The Women's Show, where product vendors are sold booth space at the fair and/or ad time on the station. With so many viewing choices, it's important that stations try new things to create awareness, says Nicholson. "Events have a sizzle that go beyond just selling spots and dots."

Like most markets, the Little Rock TV ad economy is heavily dependent on auto advertising. Indeed, Nicholson says total spending by the auto sector may account for as much as 55% to 60% of the market's TV revenue.

Nicholson has been in the Little Rock market for 40 years. "I have seen it all," he says, noting that the market's rate of growth peaked in 1994. "We're now looking at 2% to 3% growth" on an ongoing basis.

KLRT(TV) Vice President/General Manager Chuck Spohn reports that local business is "pretty stable," while national spot "has pulled back a bit." He believes that war concerns could be behind the softness. "Hints of war are going to ripple heavier through a national brand like Tide. But, locally, people still have day-to-day needs, and they are still buying furniture and autos." And fast food, a category that seems to be holding its own in the market.

Cable ad sales are growing significantly. Estimates are that Comcast takes a $6 million to $8 million annual bite out of the Little Rock TV market.