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Local Market Spotlight: Madison, Wis.

Feb 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

National sales have been down for the past two months in Madison, Wis., as is the case elsewhere, but station managers say the market has a very healthy economy and local advertising is up.
“We have some of the lowest unemployment in the nation, around 1 percent,” said Bob Miller, general manager at ABC affiliate WKOW-TV. “This is the state capital. It’s very white-collar-we have little if any manufacturing.”
Bob Smith, general manager at NBC affiliate WMTV, added, “We’re all suffering a little bit in national, like everybody else in the country, but we’re lucky we have a Big 10 university here-the University of Wisconsin-and they’re not laying anybody off, and the state capital is not laying anybody off.”
According to BIA Financial Network, Madison TV revenues were about $55.6 million in 2000 and are expected to be $59 million in 2001.
Top ad categories are auto, telecommunications, electronics and home improvement stores, while furniture, restaurants and fast-food restaurants are up. Mr. Miller said telecommunications has slowed down because of some acquisitions and mergers.
Mr. Miller said the high-tech sector is growing, partly because many graduates from the university stay in the area. The area is home to Sonic Foundry, one of the world’s largest audio software manufacturers.
“This is the Silicon Prairie, I call it-we were there before Austin [Texas]; we’re similar to Austin,” Mr. Miller said. “Biotech is huge here because of our agricultural history and the university. That was put as a top priority for the state. There is a feeling that biotech could be the next Silicon Valley, so the state has devoted a lot of resources and effort to carve out that niche, and Madison is the heart of it.”
Mr. Smith said WMTV has countered the ad slowdown by being more active on the local sales side, which means having the sales staff go directly to area businesses instead of relying on ad agencies. Local sales have been up.
“Our local direct business is doing very well for the first quarter,” Mr. Smith said. “Our mission this year-and [it] has been for the last year and a half-is to continue to grow our local direct business. I think you have to-the whole industry is seeing that. You can control that if you’re out making the calls and making the presentation; we can’t control what an ad agency does.”
Cable penetration in Madison is 70 percent, which translates into 240,000 homes, said Chris Eigenberger, general manager of ad sales for Charter Media of Madison.
Charter offers advertisers 24 cable networks, increasing to 28 this year. The market is broken up into nine zones.
“The cable networks are spending millions of dollars on new and first-run programming, so that’s helping us overall,” said Mr. Eigenberger. “That being said, we find greater value in the niche networks like Home & Garden Television and the Food Network,” Mr. Eigenberger said. “It really helps us sell and target extremely well.”
Top ad categories on cable are auto, restaurants, furniture and home improvement. Cable expects to pace in the mid-double digits compared with a year ago. “Overall we’re going to see high teens growth,” Mr. Eigenberger said. “Cable doesn’t get hurt as bad because a lot of our accounts are local as opposed to agency accounts, so we have more control of that.”