A Two-Station Race - Broadcasting & Cable

A Two-Station Race

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In the Wausau-Rhinelander, Wis., market, competition between WSAW-TV and WAOW-TV is intense. WSAW-TV General Manager Al Lancaster calls it a "Coke and Pepsi" battle: There is a "big gap" between the top two stations and the others, and "we both get larger shares of the market because of the weakness of NBC and Fox in the market.

"Local news is important to both stations," he adds, noting that the Gray Communications CBS affiliate has Dr. Phil, Oprah and Everybody Loves Raymond
and just has "better syndication, period." WAOW-TV's prime time has more viewers (a nearly 2-1 advantage, he says); the ABC affiliate, he observes, is "a good competitor."

DMA 134 Wausau-Rhinelander is unusual in at least one respect: Third-place WJFW-TV airs a weekly, half-hour news program in the native language of the community's 13,000 Vietnamese. The station produces Hmong News
with the city's Minority Affairs Office, the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association and a local cable access station. Says General Manager Ron Montezon, "There is a language barrier to some extent, so to broadcast in their native tongue was a huge benefit." Response to the show is "terrific." (The newscast was begun after 9/11, he says, because the immigrants had difficulty understanding whether the terror attack was real or just a television show.)

The market is tight these days. Notes Robert Raff, general manager for Fox affiliate WFXS(TV), advertising at the Davis Television station is "a little bit behind where we had anticipated."

Last year, though, WJFW-TV saw "huge growth," Montezon says, "up close to 10% excluding political. Throw in political, and we are probably up 19%."

The market may soon benefit from the state's earlier Democratic presidential primary date, moved to February 17 from April, and a senatorial election in 2004. Montezon says, "Perhaps Wisconsin will be more of a [political] target than it has been in the past."

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