Looking For a 'Great' 2003


Parkersburg, W.Va., is close enough to the larger cities, and TV markets, of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa., for an easy drive but not so close that its one local over-the-air broadcaster has to worry about over-the-air signals' confusing local viewers.

"We're not easily reachable with programming from other markets," says General Manager Roger Sheppard. "Cable brings in other networks from Huntington, W.Va., and from Columbus, Ohio, but we get all the local advertisers to ourselves."

Sheppard, undoubtedly one of Parkersburg's biggest boosters, has spent most of his life in West Virginia, and in Parkersburg, and says, "I feel very blessed" as general manager. Early in his career, he was a reporter and anchor in Parkersburg, at WTAP-TV. "I think that, if most of us had our druthers, they'd work in the community that meant the most in their lives. I started out in TV here, and this is where I want to be."

The somewhat underperforming market had a significant, though not extraordinary drop of 11% from its record year 2000 to 2001. "I sometimes think our market's economy runs about six months behind the rest of television markets. We were hurting for the first nine months of this year. But the fourth quarter blew through the roof, and we're going to have a great year in 2003."

WTAP-TV carries the West Virginia lottery and benefits from the lottery as a major advertiser. The largest local advertiser is the furniture sector, with health care, particularly Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, another strong source of local advertising. Because of changes in con- figuring the DMA, the market lost political advertising that might have come from the nearby Youngstown, Ohio, area.

Naturally, WTAP-TV dominates in local news, but it also won an award last year from the West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association as the top small-market television newscast.