Local Market Spotlight: Wausau-Rhinelander, Wis.

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Local sales are flat from last year, while national and regional ads are down between 10 percent and 20 percent in the Wausau-Rhinelander, Wis., market. But sales managers are hopeful that things will pick up by the end of the year.
“I think we’re holding our own, considering the economy has been tight,” said CBS affiliate WSAW-TV General Sales Manager Brenda Holloway.
According to BIA Financial Network, Wausau-Rhinelander TV revenues were $20.2 million in 2000 and are expected to be $19.4 million in 2001.
Top ad categories are auto, fast food, health care and retail.
ABC affiliate WAOW-TV General Sales Manager Brad Heinkel said auto is down “considerably,” especially Dodge. But he is optimistic business will pick up. WAOW plans to hire more sales staff, who will also sell the station’s Web site.
“One reason why we think things will get a little better [is] Kohl’s is doing very well,” Mr. Heinkel said, referring to the department store. “I wish they would translate into bigger ad revenues. I think this is just a down year. The past five years [have] been very strong. Political will come back next year; the governor’s race is expected to be very strong.”
Mr. Heinkel said WAOW will air two Green Bay Packers games as part of ABC’s “Monday Night Football” plus a preseason game. Since those games are so popular, WAOW has its own half-hour Packers show at 6:30 p.m. Mondays during football season. “When it’s your own show, you have more flexibility and different things for advertisers, such as projects for them,” Mr. Heinkel said.
Michael Spiesman, president of Continental Television Sales, said the market was down for the first six months because of the soft auto category. “What tempered the losses was growth by retail and the entertainment category and agricultural spending,” Mr. Spiesman said. “That minimized the negative impact of auto and political. Things are much brighter in third quarter. Auto is turning around, showing double-digit growth.”
Mr. Spiesman said in the third quarter, growth is fueled by automotive, retail and entertainment categories. “The only negative to the quarter is fast food, which is down,” he said.
Paper mills are the major employer in the market, Ms. Holloway said. She said the “local economy is stable. I think you’ll see people will loosen up on their purse strings.”
WSAW has a popular ad venue in “Your Town,” which is the brainchild of WSAW General Manager Al Lancaster. WSAW goes to a specific town in the market twice a year and reports positive news stories about that community. A makeshift television studio is brought to the town, and the 5 p.m. news is done from that town for an entire week.
“We try to be more community-oriented,” Ms. Holloway said. “We blow away our competition. We draw all the viewers from any other station that one week because it’s local content. This gives us a venue to talk about the good stories. It helps us, too, with viewership. It’s a win-win for both advertisers and the station.”
According to BIA Financial Network, the market has 54 percent cable penetration, and Charter Communications is the major cable system in the market.
Susan Jirgl, ad sales manager at Charter Communications in the market, said advertisers can buy the entire market, such as on broadcast stations, or they can buy up to 12 different geographic zones. Charter offers ad inserts on between 12 and 20 cable networks.
Top ad categories on cable are auto, home improvement, furniture and electronics.
“It has been a tough year, but cable is a good alternative to broadcast, and we’ve seen a lot of new advertisers come on just because of the availability we have to provide customized packages, which better target the customers’ audience,” Ms. Jirgl said. “I do have first-time advertisers that weren’t on a year ago.”