It's not just beer - Broadcasting & Cable

It's not just beer

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Milwaukee and beer are indelibly linked. But the market is about more than brew. Some of the country's biggest businesses are headquartered here; new General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt was promoted out of the Milwaukee-based GE Medical division. The city's annual Summerfest was hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 as the U.S.'s largest music festival. And the city's brand-new Miller Brewing-owned baseball park drew 3 million attendees to Brewers games this year.

"In a broadcast sense, we've had a down year in 2001. We're no different than anyone else," points out Pete Monfre, vice president of sales at Hearst-Argyle ABC affiliate WISN-TV. "But economy-wise, we've moved beyond the 'Rust Belt' label," he insists.

However, he is looking forward to the upcoming 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson, another hometown company, as "a gigantic" boost for the ad market. For the 95th celebration, Harley sellers ran a lot of appreciation spots over local stations' air.

The increasing variety of the market has fueled a competitive spirit in local news, says Monfre. WISN-TV and NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV are regularly neck-and-neck with their newscasts, with WTMJ-TV usually victorious in households and WISN-TV tending to come out on top in the key news demographic, adults 25-54. Fox O&O WITI-TV is also considered a tough news rival.

Mary Alice Tierney, a spokesperson for WTMJ-TV parent Journal Broadcast Group, calls Milwaukee "a very sophisticated market in terms of news viewing. They are very proud of their community and have high expectations for quality news."

WTMJ-TV takes its news so seriously, she insists, that, "unequivocally, the economy will not impact the quality of [its] news," even though network executives have voiced concern about stepping up operations to cover the war against terrorism in this economy.

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