The Upper Crust

Local news thrives in this affluent Connecticut area


Local Flavor

Hartford-New Haven, Conn., the nation's 27th-largest TV market, houses some of the wealthiest, best-educated people in the U.S. More than 30 colleges are within an hour's drive of downtown Hartford, including Yale and Wesleyan. Still, the tech-heavy New England knowledge corridor was hard hit by the recession. TV ad revenue has yet to recover from 2001. BIA estimates stations will take in $182 million this year, up about 6.5% over 2003 but well below the $194 million it banked in 2000. And though political spending will bring in $5 million-$6.5 million, that's half of what was collected in the category in 2002.

The slow recovery has led broadcasters to ramp up their fight for local dollars, and several stations have expanded their sales staffs. "You have a lot of young people knocking on a lot of doors to recruit new business," says Mark Hoffman, general manager at NBC-owned WVIT. Despite its proximity to Boston and New York, the Hartford-New Haven market draws significant national ad revenue. About 50% of stations' total revenue comes from national accounts.

On the news front, there is a tough race for supremacy.

WFSB, a CBS affiliate owned by Meredith, just won the 6 p.m. news crown in May from WVIT. And WVIT barely seized the late-news crown from its rival in total households. Tribune's Fox affiliate, WTIC, runs an hourlong newscast at 10 p.m. that finished second to WVIT's 11 p.m. broadcast in late night's key 18-49 and 25-54 demos.

WFSB scored a major daytime coup in September, picking up Dr. Phil, which had been running on LIN Broadcasting's ABC affiliate WTNH.

Three duopolies exist. In addition to WTNH, LIN owns UPN affiliate WCTX. Tribune operates both WTIC and WB station WTXX. Entravision runs the Univision station, WUVN, as well as low-power Telefutura-affiliated WUTH. About 8% of the market's population is of Hispanic origin.

Nearly every TV household here subscribes to cable, one of the highest penetration levels among the top 75 markets. Comcast is the major provider, covering roughly 90% of the DMA. By contrast, satellite penetration is low, about 6%.

Although highly educated viewers sometimes watch less television, HUT (households using television) levels in Hartford are in line with the national average, suggesting a keen interest in politics and local news. WTNH General Manager Jon Hitchcock attributes audience numbers to the sound quality of the broadcasts: "There is a lot of good news product in this market, and it's drawing viewers in."