Local Market Spotlight: Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va.

Feb 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Ad sales are soft in Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va., but station managers are hoping car dealers will spend more on ads at the end of the quarter in an effort to try to move their inventory.
“The car businesses-they are loaded to the gills with inventory,” said Michael Brunette, general manager at NBC affiliate WSLS-TV. “Because they are not moving their product, they’re not advertising. But now that they have extra inventory, I think auto dealers will start spending money in March. They’ve got to get that inventory moving.”
According to BIA Financial Network, Roanoke-Lynchburg TV revenues were about $55.9 million in 2000 and are expected to be $58.7 million in 2001.
Top ad categories are auto, telecommunications, drugstore chains and fast food.
Mr. Brunette said furniture is a category that has been down because Heilig-Meyers, a retail furniture chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and recently announced 116 stores would be closed.
“We had zero presidential money last year-Virginia was already a Bush state, and they didn’t spend any money here,” Mr. Brunette said. “We have a governor’s race this year, so that should help us recover some of the money from last year. We’ll have primary money in June and also money for the general election in late third quarter and early fourth quarter.”
Mr. Brunette said the market seems to be pacing 5 percent to 10 percent slower than a year ago. A few weeks ago WSLS began a weathercast on its Web site that breaks the weather into seven geographical zones and is updated every hour. The entire sales staff sells for the site. Sponsoring the weather feature has become popular among advertisers.
“We’re outselling it right now,” Mr. Brunette said. “The weather could be 20 degrees different from one part of the market to another. So we’re zoning our weather forecasting to match each region. I don’t know anyone in a hyphenated market to break down their weather into zones to make it more local-local.”
WSLS also recently began a joint sales agreement to operate Pax station WPXR-TV. WSLS runs WPXR’s sales, marketing and operations.
Randy Smith, general manager at ABC affiliate WSET-TV, said news remains the No. 1 demand area among advertisers.
“For this quarter, I’m not absolutely convinced the market is as soft as some people might think that it is,” Mr. Smith said. “We always work very hard on developing new direct business, and we put even more emphasis on that when the market is soft. The indications are that good times are not far away.”
Mr. Smith predicts that when the year is over, the market will be 3 percent to 4 percent ahead of last year.
“Pacing is looking very good,” Mr. Smith said. “What we’re finding is once you get beyond February, the market looks pretty good. We do see some automotive coming back-not back to the levels that it was last year but coming to the levels we anticipated it would be.”
Cable penetration in the market is 66 percent, which translates into 265,000 cable homes, said Tim Morgan, general manager at Cable Rep Advertising for Roanoke.
Cable Rep offers advertisers 40 channels on which to insert ads on Cox Communications and 20 channels on Charter Communications.
Cable is pacing relatively flat with modest gains, partly because the auto category is slow.