A sign on a practice green in Myrtle Beach, S.C., notes that it's half-way between Miami and New York. All the other signs point toward Myrtle Beach. Florence, notes one TV executive in the Florence-Myrtle Beach market, is a city in Italy; Myrtle Beach is a destination for tourists and for advertisers. As a result, local stations have united in asking Nielsen to rename the market Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.-Lumberton, N.C. The hyphenated market has different cultures, different ways of life.
"Florence used to be an agricultural trading center," notes David Carfolite, general manager at Fox affiliate WFXB(TV). Although it has shaken off some of the former tobacco dominance for manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, "we're putting the emphasis on the beach. It will be easier to tell people we're the Myrtle Beach market."
Myrtle Beach business, he notes, "spends $9 million to $15 million a year publicizing its name. We're in the advertising business. We should use the strongest brand we can get a hold of." Advertising inside the underperforming market, typically, is led by automotive with fast food following.
"As big-agency planners and national advertisers see this as the Myrtle Beach market," says Michael Pumo, general manager of market leader WBTW(TV) "they will recognize this as a high-growth market, an easy-to-drive-to designation."
Media General-owned CBS affiliate WBTW has been the dominant local television force for nearly 50 years. "If you were a kid in this market from 1954 to 1980, you watched channel 13," Carfolite acknowledges. "Every other channel had snow on it."
ABC programming is provided by the market's No. 2 station, Diversified Communications' WPDE-TV, which also operates UPN affiliate WWMB(TV). NBC comes in via cable from Columbia, S.C., or Wilmington, N.C.
The GE Media that owns WFXB is not related to the GE behind NBC's O&O stations. WFXB, as owner Greg Everett points out, is "South Carolina's only locally owned and operated commercial television station."