A Slow, Steady Comeback


Local television in the Portland-Auburn, Maine, market took a big hit in 2001, but local executives say it has already begun a steady, if slow, comeback. In the state's largest city, television dropped more than 20% from its $50 million-plus peak year of 2000, according to research by BIA Financial.

For last year, BIA estimates a $2 million gain, about 5%. Though ranked 76th overall, the market drops to 92nd in revenue rank. With national advertising off, say station execs, local and regional advertisers are picking up some of the slack.

"It's not a growth market," notes Dave Kaufman, who runs locally owned WMTV-TV and the company's five radio stations. "It's Maine, it's New England. We have a fairly high per capita income, but New England is slow to move. The market's been historically consistent and relatively healthy, but it took a pretty big hit in national advertising."

Says Steve Thaxton, general manager of Gannett's WCSH(TV), "Our greatest joy is also our greatest hindrance: We are a rural and sparsely populated place, but it is an absolutely beautiful place to live."

The market has had no Fox network programming over the air since Pegasus's WPXT(TV) switched to The WB more than a year ago. But Toledo, Ohio, broadcaster Corporate Media Consultants plans to launch a Fox affiliate next month on WMPX-TV, which it bought last year from Paxson. CEO Charles Glover expects the deal to close any day. He plans to move the station from Lewiston to Portland and hopes to launch a local newscast this year.

WPXT, which garnered national acclaim prior to the 2000 election when it broke the story about then-candidate George W. Bush's 1976 drunk-driving arrest, pulled the plug on its local newscast last year but later added one produced by WCSH. For stations with news, political advertising was strong in 2002.

WCSH was among the first stations to recognize morning opportunities, beginning its newscasts at 5 a.m. in 1996. Sinclair's WGME(TV) subsequently got up even earlier, starting its morning news at 4:55. "We are definitely an early-morning market," says Thaxton.