Two Carolinas, One Market

Tourism, tech drive Southern cities
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In the Carolinas, four cities draw on three distinct eco-­ nomic engines for the market's collective well-being: tourism, manufacturing and technology.

Nielsen's 35th-largest market covers Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson in South Carolina and Asheville in North Carolina. The Asheville section in the mountains leans heavily on tourism, while Spartanburg is a manufacturing center. Spartanburg, Greenville and Anderson enjoy prime locations near Interstate 85 between Charlotte and Atlanta, and several new businesses—most notably in the technology sector—have set up shop nearby. The area is also home to BMW's North American operations and the International Center for Automotive Research, making it the second-largest automotive after-market center in the U.S., behind Detroit.

“This is a market with traditional Southern flair but an eye toward the future of business,” says WYFF General Manager Mike Hayes.

Stations took in $120.9 million in gross revenue last year, up from $104.9 million in 2003, according to BIA Financial. WYFF led the pack with $36.5 million.

Station execs say the local-advertising sector is steady. Regional appliance retailer HH Gregg is moving in, and that “should give that category a big boost,” says WSPA General Manager Phil Lane.

Charter Communications is the major cable operator, but its position is weak. Only 57% of households subscribe to cable, compared with more than 70% in similar-size markets.

Among the region's stations, Sinclair Broadcasting-owned ABC affiliate WLOS is headquartered in Asheville and targets its news to western North Carolina. Hearst-Argyle's NBC affiliate WYFF is located in Greenville, and Media General's CBS outlet WSPA is in Spartanburg, and both focus on South Carolina news. WYFF and WSPA maintain bureaus in other South Carolina towns and use helicopters to cover the whole market.

WYFF has won early-morning, early-evening and late news for 37 consecutive ratings periods, but WSPA is not far behind. In May, for instance, WYFF's 11 p.m. news averaged a 7.7 rating/14.8 share, edging out WSPA's 7.4/14.2. WLOS and Meredith Broadcasting's Fox station WHNS, which airs a 10 p.m. news, battled closely for third place. UPN affiliate WASV, also a Media General station, airs a 10 p.m. news produced by WSPA's team. The CBS station's 5:30 p.m. anchors, Amy Wood and Brian Washington, host the WASV newscast.

WLOS got national attention in 2004 when it refused to air a Nightline special featuring pictures of dead American soldiers. Former Chief Les Vann has since moved to WTVH Syracuse, and Jack Connors is now the general manager.

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