Jacksonville is not your father's Florida. With a median age of around 34, this Sunbelt city hardly resembles the image of The Sunshine State as full of snowbirds and pensioners.
"We have a lot of pine trees here, not palm trees. It's not what people automatically think of about Florida," said Michael Liff, general manager of The WB affiliate WJWB(TV).
Jacksonville is a bustling market, heavy on military influence. The U.S. Navy is the largest employer, with more than 40,000 civilian workers spread across half a dozen shipyards and air bases.
The TV market has been in a state of flux for nearly two years. Perennial market leader WJXT(TV) last year lost its 53-year affiliation with CBS in a dispute over network compensation and today stands as one of the few truly independent stations. General Manager Sherry Burns left during the summer and was replaced by Larry Blackerby, former manager at KMIR-TV Palm Springs, Calif.
Then, after the May sweeps, WJXT anchor Deborah Gianoulis left the station, breaking up a four-person news team had been together since 1981.
"Yeah, we're just a sleepy little old town. Nothing ever happens here," said Susan Adams-Lloyd, general manager at Clear Channel's WTEV-TV, which replaced WJXT as the CBS affiliate, and WAWS(TV), the Fox channel. Clear Channel operates the stations as a duopoly.
WTEV-TV has seen its ratings triple in the past year, courtesy of its newfound coziness with CBS.
But both the Fox and The WB affiliates do extremely well in this youthful market. Both handily whip ABC affiliate WJXX(TV), whose tower in faraway Orange Park results in a skimpy signal across parts of the market. Gannett owns both WJXX and NBC affiliate WTLV(TV).
From a revenue standpoint, Jacksonville holds its own against other mid-tier markets. Though ranked only 52nd among Nielsen DMAs, the market ranks 47th in ad revenue.