There has been little evidence of recession in Savannah, Ga. In contrast to double-digit dips in local TV revenue across the country, this historic Southern market at the Georgia-South Carolina border dropped by barely half a percent from 2000 to 2001. 2000 was flat from 1999, but the market has grown pretty steadily from $28.6 million in 1996 to an expected $37 million in 2002, according to BIA Financial.
The DMA boasts a strong local economy, built around an old manufacturing sector, one of the largest ports in the country, tourism and a large military presence. Its large tourism business was protected from 9/11 fallout by two large interstate highways, which enable visitors from even an extended distance to avoid flying.
The top advertiser is automotive, naturally, followed by the usual fast-food, retail and service industries. WTOC-TV GM Bill Cathcart estimates the local-national split at about 55% regional and local, the rest national advertising. He cites the stable economy, climate "and a very desirable Southeast location" to explain why "Savannah has become a destination city. It has almost a year-round resort atmosphere."
Market leaders WTOC-TV and WSAV-TV are the oldest stations—launched in 1954 and 1956, respectively—and the only ones on VHF. Raycom's WTOC-TV has been dominant for as long as anyone can remember and has won every book since the fall of 1980—even since the retirement last year of local news icon Doug Weathers after more than 40 years in the market. The station also dominates in revenue, taking in just under $15 million in 2001, according to BIA Financial.
Its closest competitor is Media General-owned NBC affiliate WSAV-TV, with $8.8 million. A tight race for third in revenue and local commercial share pits Bluenose Broadcasting's Fox affiliate WTGS(TV) against GOCOM's ABC affiliate WJCL(TV); each just broke $5 million last year, according to BIA.