This is the land of thoroughbreds, blue grass and a pretty good basketball team. The Lexington, Ky., market, which includes the state capital of Frankfort, has had a lot to neigh about recently. A diverse economy driven by educational research, state government, horse breeding and auto manufacturing has held the area's unemployment rate at about half the national figure.
Politics helped keep TV stations' coffers full in 2003. A tightly contested gubernatorial race poured dollars into the market.
"Business is very solid here," said Wayne Martin, general manager at WKYT-TV, the CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television. "There is a good positive consumer attitude, people are working, and we're looking at 4%-5% revenue growth next year."
WKYT-TV has been the top stallion in Lexington for a quarter century in terms of total households, according to station officials. Its closest competitor, NBC affiliate WLEX-TV, has picked away in some demographic categories and won the 11 p.m. news race during the May sweeps.
"We have, over the past four years or so, become fairly dominant in delivering 18-49 and 25-54 demographics," said Tim Gilbert, general manager, WLEX-TV.
Turmoil has wracked ABC affiliate WTVQ-TV. In April, owner Media General canned the station's general manager, news director and executive producer. Within two months, seven on-air faces either resigned or were terminated.
Lexington is also the home of winsome Emily Gimmel, hired as an 18-year-old last year to do a morning news segment on WKYT-TV. Now a college sophomore, she has garnered national attention because of her age and, probably, her good looks.
Neither UPN nor The WB is much of a factor. WBLU(TV) delivers UPN programming via low-power signal. There is no local WB station, although some cable systems import a signal from WBKI(TV) Louisville.
Satellite penetration is unusually high here, the result of a lack of VHF signals coupled with rolling terrain that hinders over-the-air reception. DirecTV delivers local signals into the market. Dish Network plans to begin a local feed by the end of the year.