A heavy dose of government and financial-services firms helps insulate Virginia's capital city from wild economic swings. That may account for the population's stability.
"We have a lot of people who have been here a long time. That really helps give us an edge," says Harvey Powers, longtime WWBT news director, who runs the Jefferson-Pilot-owned station's new-media group. WWBT has the market's largest news staff and boasts its only news helicopter. No surprise: The station wins most of the local news slots in the No. 58 TV market. It also produces a 10 p.m. newscast for Fox affiliate WRLH, owned by Sinclair.
TV competition in Richmond, a regional banking center and the heart of tobacco country, is played out among five full-powered stations.
WTVR, Raycom's CBS affiliate, tops news ratings at noon and has been making significant gains at 11 p.m. The station recently won the RTNDA's Edward R. Murrow Award for feature reporting. "The most impressive thing has been our demographic growth at 11," says News Director Rick Howard. "Where we used to be nine or 10 points behind WWBT, now it's two or three."
WRIC, an ABC affiliate owned by Young Broadcasting, has been rebuilding. The station picked up The Oprah Winfrey Show last year when WWBT dropped it.
For its part, WUPV, Lockwood Broadcasting's UPN affiliate, aims its syndicated programming at the city's black audience, carrying shows like The Steve Harvey Show and Martin. WUPV does no local news. Richmond has no WB affiliate, although WWBT carries some WB programming overnight.
In cable, Comcast dominates, handling ad sales for itself and the neighboring Adelphia system. Although automotive is the top ad category, No. 2 home furnishings is climbing fast. "This is a great growth market, with a lot of building going on," says Comcast General Manager Linda Johnson. "With networks like HGTV and others, we are able to specifically target those buyers."
Media General, the giant publishing concern headquartered here, is closely watching the wrangling among Congress, the courts and the FCC over media-ownership rules. The company owns about two dozen TV stations and has said it would like to have one in its hometown. Says one Richmond station manager, "People spend about half their time wondering which station they are going to buy."