The official seal of the city of Atlanta features a phoenix, the
legendary bird that rises from its ashes. Atlanta has emerged from the ruins of
the Civil War and from the civil-rights struggle to become one of the most
economically sound regions in the nation. Home to 13 Fortune 500 companies,
including Coca-Cola, it's also a significant cable center: HQ for Cox, CNN,
TNT, Cartoon Network and The Weather Channel.
The ninth-largest TV market also encompasses parts of three states and
harbors nearly 6 million people. The one constant for television in the past
decade is the dominance of Cox-owned WSB. One of the best-performing ABC
affiliates, it had the top early newscast in May and won every daypart except
prime time, while raking in $135 million in ad revenue last year, according to
BIA estimates. Total market revenue is estimated to reach $562 million this
year, up 8.5% from 2003.
Relatively weak competition helps maintain WSB's status. Meredith's CBS
affiliate WGCL has undergone a series of ownership and personnel changes and
has not yet gained traction. WXIA, Gannett's NBC station, has only recently
begun to recover from a lengthy ratings slide.
Market demographics are also changing rapidly. Six counties in the
market rank among the nation's top 10 in Hispanic growth, although Atlanta has
only one Spanish-language TV station, Univision-owned WUVG.
In May, Fox O&O WAGA rode the popularity of local singer Diana
DeGarmo on American Idol to its first prime
time win. Its 10 p.m. newscast edged past WSB's 11 p.m. show (10 rating/15
share vs. 9/17). "The demographic skew of the marketplace very closely mirrors
Fox's primary target," says WAGA General Manager Gene McHugh, "and that's
helped us." Independent WTBS operates as a local station in Atlanta, although
it is known as a "superstation" to national cable audiences.
Comcast controls most of the cable market. Its ad arm, Comcast
Spotlight, inserts local ads on more than 40 networks. About 69% of the market
subscribes to cable, while 24% takes satellite service.
With no natural boundaries to constrain its growth, Atlanta has become a
poster child for urban sprawl. The Chamber of Commerce assembled a task force
to develop recommendations to help accommodate an estimated 2.5 million new
residents expected by 2030. "There is a growing recognition here that
continuing the current trends is a bad idea," says Chamber Vice President Kevin
Green. "We cannot afford to let growth happen and just hope for the best."