Spring is in the air in southwest Virginia, and the azaleas and dogwood aren't the only things growing in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market. "Business is substantially improved over this time a year ago," says Bob Lee, president/general manager of CBS affiliate WDBJ(TV). "The market was kind of slow to recover from the 9/11 fallout. But the market has come along, and there is a general wellness in business here across all categories."
Mike Brunette, general manager of NBC affiliate WSLS-TV, says Roanoke is "probably a little bit luckier than a lot of markets in that we don't have high highs or low lows. I think, like everybody, we had our pause with the war, but now we're seeing activity kicking back in. I think there's a little more confidence now."
Another positive development, according to Lee and Brunette, is that both DirecTV and EchoStar are poised to offer local-into-local service next month, though probably not in time for the May book. "DBS penetration in our market is 25%, which is very high. But, when we go into Nielsen diary examinations, we find that same 25% of viewers accounts for about 35% of television viewing," Lee says.
Both Lee and Brunette describe Roanoke as a competitive news market. Brunette explains: "The ABC affiliate in Lynchburg [WSET-TV] pretty much serves the eastern half on the other side of the mountain. And then the larger part of the population in Roanoke and the New River Valley is split between ourselves and the CBS station. But we also produce the 10 o'clock newscast for the Fox station [WFXR-TV], and we have moved the Pax station [WPXR] into our building, and we run our 6 o'clock news on Pax at 7 and our 11 at 11:30."
Brunette is especially pleased with the boost his 5 p.m. news is getting from Dr. Phil. "We've always struggled to get a good lead-in. In one of the key demos, we tied our news competitor at 5 plus tied Oprah at 5, and we've doubled our female 18-49 demo from a year ago."