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Local Market Spotlight: Baton Rouge, La.

Jul 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The Baton Rouge, La., ad market is down double digits from last year, say some station managers. According to Pat Cheramie, general manager at ABC affiliate WBRZ-TV, the market is “very, very soft” now, with auto down as much as 25 percent from last year.
“We had political last year, and overall I think the market is down 20 percent. If you exclude political, it’s about 15 percent,” she said.
According to BIA Financial Network, Baton Rouge TV revenues were $58.2 million in 2000 and are expected to be $57 million in 2001.
Michael Spiesman, president of Continental Television Sales, a rep for medium- and small-market stations, said fast food is pacing ahead for the first half of the year.
“You’re really looking at automotive being down, and at best telecommunications and retail are flat,” Mr. Spiesman said. “Auto is down 15 percent. In the third quarter a year ago we had political, so political will be absent this year, but auto, while still down, will be much closer to flat, with some auto brands actually showing increases year to year.”
Top ad categories are medical, telecommunications, fast food and retail.
Some stations in the market are turning to nontraditional revenue projects.
Andrew Shenkan, sales manager at WBRZ, said a project called “EMS File” helped the station salvage its first quarter by bringing in nonhospital medical revenue.
The station gave out large pill bottles to viewers in which to store their family’s medical history form, making vital medical information readily available in case of a medical emergency. Local advertisers, such as banks and clinics, were distribution places where viewers could pick up the free bottles.
WBRZ ran promos telling viewers where to obtain the bottles, and Mr. Shenkan said viewers “flooded into the sponsor locations.”
“We are doing community-based programs underwritten by nontraditional advertisers that are actually a win-win for everybody,” Mr. Shenkan said. “We’re the only family owned-and-operated station in the market, and it’s consistent with our mission statement.”
Mr. Shenkan said Baton Rouge, which is the fifth-largest port in the country, “has always been an island of economic growth, because we’re the state capital and we have a decent petrochemical company and two major universities here.”
He added that new businesses such as Target (scheduled to open in November) and Best Buy (which is considering locations in Baton Rouge) are entering the market.
Cox is the major cable system in Baton Rouge, and Carlton Charles, local sales manager for Cox CableRep, said the market has 80 percent cable penetration.
CableRep offers ad insertions on 40 cable networks in six geographical regions. Top ad categories on cable are auto, retail, restaurants, financial and entertainment. Cable is pacing a little bit ahead of last year.
“With us, it’s just the pricing is so much more affordable than broadcast,” Mr. Charles said. “In the first quarter, the broadcasters were dropping their trousers. They were lowering their rates. Certain categories are skewing heavily on cable this year, such as auto. The only thing we see [auto] buy consistently on broadcast is the local news. I think we’re more targeted demographically and geographically.”