The Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla., market is flat compared with a year ago, but station managers are hopeful the market will turn up by the end of the year.
“Local business continues to be flat to up moderately and national business is suffering a great deal. It’s driven predominantly by auto,” said Joe Goleniowski, general manager at CBS affiliate WKRG-TV.
Scott Wilson, general manager at Fox affiliate WALA-TV, said the market’s local ads are down between 4 percent and 5 percent and national is off between 25 percent and 30 percent compared with a year ago.
Top ad categories are auto-especially foreign cars-fast food and telecommunications.
According to BIA Financial Network, Mobile-Pensacola TV revenues were $77.7 million in 2000 and are expected to be $80.8 million in 2001.
“The wireless telephone business is down-that’s because Bell South Mobility has merged with Cingular,” Mr. Goleniowski said.
But Mr. Wilson said, “Telecommunications is probably the growing category right now. It wasn’t a big factor until this year. There were only probably three cellular carriers last year, and we have seven this year.”
Sharon Moloney, general manager at NBC affiliate WPMI-TV, agreed that the cellular category is up, with “more competition among the cellular phone companies.”
Ms. Moloney, who also runs UPN affiliate WJTC-TV through a local marketing agreement, said the challenge is that the Florida and Alabama segments of the market are so different that many stations have separate sales staffs selling for those parts.
Mr. Wilson said the market lost about 1,500 jobs in the past six months because of several large plant closings, including a paper mill, a chemical plant and a textile plant. He said Verizon closed its office to move to Mississippi.
“We’ve got a couple of new plants, a shipbuilding plant that just opened in Mobile, and that was 250 new jobs,” Mr. Wilson said.
The market area covers 13 counties in three states-one county in Mississippi and the rest in Alabama and Florida.
Mr. Wilson said tourism is a big business that starts now and ends in October. Tourists visit the 20 beaches in the area. “The economy had been real healthy until September of last year,” Mr. Wilson said.
The market has 468,680 television homes and, according to BIA Financial Network, cable penetration is 73 percent.
Doris Young, vice president and general manager of Cable Rep, Gulf Coast, said the cable interconnect offers 17 geographic zones for advertisers to buy. They can choose from 36 cable networks on which to insert ads, up from 21 a year ago.
“They can just buy one portion of Pensacola, like the north side or south side of Pensacola,” Ms. Young said. “Our broadcast counterparts-what I’m hearing is they’re being asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent. They’re cutting their expenses, so I think the broadcasters are really struggling.It seems to me that more people are staying put, not buying new homes, so they’re deciding to renovate.”