Saying no to Nielsen

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Ranking stations and programs in the Fort Myers, Fla., market isn't as easy as it used to be. Since last year, nearly all the stations in the market decided to take a pass on Nielsen Media Research numbers—and costs. Steve Pontius, who runs both the NBC affiliate, Waterman Broadcasting's WBBH-TV, and the ABC affiliate, Montclair Communications' WZVN-TV, under an LMA, says Nielsen's use of meters would have raised those fees 14-fold. "I am not anti-Nielsen," he insists. "We're simply not a big enough market to support meters."

More than a dozen larger DMAs, in fact, are not metered. "These are not unwarranted questions," says Nielsen spokesperson Karen Kratz. "And, of course, we wish we had these stations as clients. But we have metered the market, and we have decided to continue metering the market. Our sales group is pleased with the research, and the market is still benefiting from it."

The Big Four affiliates currently subscribe to Scarborough's lifestyle-oriented service.

WTVK(TV) is the lone Nielsen participant among local stations. The meters raised the WB station's younger-skewing viewership considerably, allowing the station to up its rates accordingly. "The diary system is antiquated and inaccurate," says GM Bill Scaffide. "Meters can't lie."

Per capita income in the market is high, and cable and satellite penetration—when duplication is accounted for—approaches 90%, which is particularly useful to low-power WEVU-LP, operated out of dominant local cable carrier Comcast.

Automotive is the leading ad-revenue source. The growing tourist trade has added seasonal traffic from hotels, restaurants and attractions; the first quarter—almost entirely in winter—usually sees higher ad rates and the most revenue. Retirement is also a growth industry, making real estate a major advertiser. Retired and vacationing TV execs, one general manager noted, have frequently taken advantage of the opportunity to see and raid local talent.

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