El Paso is a market full of variables and uncertainties. First, there is the number of TV stations: eight. Then there is the number of languages broadcast: two; the number of countries that affect the economy: two; and the number of CBS affiliates: one, but that may disappear.
Located just across the Rio Grande from Mexico, El Paso has two Spanish-language stations and also is covered by the signal of XEPM in its sister city of Juarez. And there are plans for another. Last September, Imes Communications agreed to sell KDBC-TV, a CBS affiliate, to Pappas Telecasting. At the same time, owner Harry Pappas announced plans to launch a Spanish-language network, Azteca America. The FCC approved the station sale, but the deal has not yet closed. Don Caparis, the station's general manager, says, "Pappas recently asked for an extension to May 31, and apparently it will close at that time. One of the stations he has planned to put into the new network is this one." So what will happen to the CBS affiliation? "That's what we're all wondering. There are no available channels here; we have all the other networks, so, that being the case, then it would end up on cable and satellite." (Pappas did not return calls.)
Kevin Lovell, general manager of KVIA-TV, says El Paso seems to set its own trend when it comes to the economy. "We don't have the peaks and valleys that most of the country has. Because we have a border economy, we kind of stay permanently flat." There are many large factories just over the border that employ about 300,000, adds Lovell. When employment drops there, El Paso feels it because "the people are not coming up here to shop."
Linda Hill, media director of The Laster Group, says, "Buying in this market is not easy. You've got your four regular networks, The WB; you've got stations coming in from another country and all the regular cable networks. You can't just apply age and gender. It's a vibrant market. If you compare cost-per-point here to markets of comparable size, media is still a tremendous bargain here."