Driven by Automobiles

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The Detroit TV market cruised through the first quarter in high gear and the second quarter is also pacing very strong, according to station managers in the market.

The war in Iraq has thrown a bit of a wrench in the works, but since it started during the last two weeks of March, it hasn't appeared to have a huge effect on the first quarter. As for Q2, stations are crossing their fingers that the war will be over quickly.

It's not called Motown for nothing. Estimates are that half the market's labor force is tied to the auto industry. If auto sales and profits sink dramatically this year (or in any year for that matter) that could put the local economy into a tailspin. At least for now, so far so good.

"Auto remains strong," said Matthew Kell, local sales manager at WDIV(TV) Detroit. Auto advertising is off a little in the first quarter but second quarter is way up—ad sales for the quarter are already at the total for the same quarter last year, he said.

Another strong ad category is banking and there's a battle for market share among several regional banks, said Kell.

The local economy remains healthy, which in turn has sustained consumer retail spending, said Grace Gilchrist, general manager at WXYZ-TV. Detroit, she said, is a "heavily driven retail market," bolstered by a well-paid labor force and high employment levels. Major drug chains and home-improvement stores like Loews and Home Depot are, "expanding like crazy." And with a homeowner rate of 70%-plus in the market, mortgage advertising is also up, she said.

Even home improvement sub-categories are hot, like the window business, said Linda Danna, general manager of the CBS-owned duopoly WWJ/WKBD. "This market is really into windows," she said.

All things being equal, and putting the war and economy aside for now, managers are forecasting growth this year in Detroit—probably in the mid-single digit range.

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