In Milwaukee, notes Jim Prather, general manager at market leader WTMJ-TV, "they like their television." The market has high levels of homes using television (HUTs), strong per-capita and disposable income, and over-indexing network affiliates. Several major companies have a strong local presence, and growth is slow but steady. With a governor's race and all its political dollars just concluded and football season in full swing, life in local television is pretty good.
It's a great market for both living and working, says Prather, who started out as WTMJ-TV's news director. "A lot of people come here thinking they'll stay a few years and leave. But they end up wanting to stay."
According to BIA Financial, the market experienced a slight drop from its 1999 peak at $154.1 million and, like most markets, saw a much larger drop—more than $18 million—in 2000. Advertisers are typical: automotive, restaurants, retail, appliances and health care.
The market saw a significant shakeup in 1995. WITI(TV), which had been a strong CBS affiliate at ch. 6, switched to Fox, and the CBS affiliation went to Weigel Broadcasting-owned independent WDJT-TV, ch. 58, which launched news and put up a new tower in Lincoln Park.
Frank Biancuzzo, who left Hearst-Argyle's corporate suite in New York to take over the ABC-affiliated WISN-TV in his hometown, hopes he can shake things up some more, as he tries to challenge WTMJ-TV.
"The market's competitive," he says, "but it's flat. Nothing here says 'great TV!'" To take on WTMJ-TV, he says, his station will have to get out of the sweeps mentality to "a 52-week approach of enterprise reporting."
Some change in the local news community is already on tap. Time Warner Cable is expected to launch a local cable news channel in 2004. And Milwaukee will be one of the biggest markets for Sinclair's centralcast, which will originate from Maryland and Milwaukee, and challenge Fox's WITI at 9 p.m. at some future date.