Boston is rife with history. The cradle of the American Revolution evokes John Adams and Paul Revere—and it's home to Kennedys, Kerrys, and Fenway Park. The double whammy of politics and sports helped drive a solid 13% first-quarter revenue gain for Boston's TV stations.
Mike Carson, general manager at WHDH, credits the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots and the New Hampshire primary with "generating an awful lot of money." Plus, the No. 6 TV market hosts the Democratic National Convention this summer.
Still, Boston was hit harder than most cities by the recession, due to its concentration of high-tech and financial-services industries. The TV ad market has not yet returned to the pre-recession glory days. BIA estimates that local stations took in $611 million last year, well below the 2000 high of $647 million
And they are fighting for every ad dollar.
Boston is a super-competitive market. Less than one share point separated the top three stations in the February ratings, sign-on to sign-off. WCVB, Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate, won most of the news time slots, finishing first in early morning, noon, and early evening. Sunbeam's WHDH won at 11 p.m., ahead of Viacom O&O WBZ. WCVB was third. At 10 p.m., Fox-owned WFXT topped WLVI (The WB) and Viacom's UPN station, WSBK.
WBZ, an NBC affiliate until 1995, is re-branding itself as "CBS4," in an effort to capitalize on its network's prime time strength. "There has been constant [viewer] confusion since the affiliation switch," says General Manager Ed Goldman. "Branding your network is a smart thing."
As for cable, Comcast, the dominant operator, also runs the Boston interconnect. The MSO recently launched a local on-
demand service that features programming from WCVB, New England Cable News, and PBS station WGBH. Nearly 90% of the market's households are wired for cable, by far the highest level among major television markets.
The city's recent claim to fame? Nielsen debuted its local people meters there—but it has been a tough sell. Tribune's WLVI just signed a deal for the service, more than two years after LPMs first appeared. "The LPMs haven't helped us," says Carson. "All the cable channels are reported higher now."