Local Market Spotlight: Anchorage, Alaska

Oct 8, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Due to a soft national economy, the Anchorage, Alaska, market was already down, but after last month’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, station managers are uncertain just how low those numbers will go.
“We had a sizable amount of pre-empts over those six days,” said Sean Bradley, VP and general manager of Smith Television Group, which includes ABC affiliate KIMO-TV. “Although we’ve attempted to make-good a lot of the schedules in September and October, a number of advertisers have pulled back their advertising schedules and they’re assessing the situation. But it’s not just for us-I think it’s nationwide.”
According to BIA Financial Network, Anchorage TV revenues were $23.7 million in 2000 and are expected to be $23.9 million in 2001. Top ad categories are auto, fast food, financial institutions and furniture. The oil industry is also important to the market.
“This is a category that spends quite a bit of dollars in public relations and advertising,” Mr. Bradley said. One event that could affect ad sales is the distribution of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check. This money, generated by a percentage of the state’s oil sales, is distributed annually to every Alaska resident in early October. This year’s dividend is about $1,850.
“That always has a big impact with retailers,” said Al Bramstedt, general manager of NBC affiliate KTUU-TV. “Car dealers talk about `double your dividend’-those kind of offers.”
While retail chains such as Fred Meyer and Home Depot are scheduled to open new stores later this year, their addition to the market is expected to have little effect on ad sales. “They’re sort of hit and miss,” said Tom Egen, manager of media services for Alaska-based integrated communications provider GCI. “They’ll probably dump some money for the grand opening, but long-term probably not significant dollars into the market.”
Mr. Egen said one of the goals for GCI, which owns 17 cable systems around the state, is to find ways to leverage the ability to advertise statewide.
“The majority of our dollars are driven out of Anchorage,” Mr. Egen said, “but we’re going to explore ways to increase Fairbanks and Juneau-talk to folks about the benefits of picking up more than one market.”
Anchorage has 131,920 television homes, and according to BIA Financial Network, the market has 62 percent cable penetration.
Stations are also looking into alternative revenue streams, and Carol Schatz, co-owner and general manager of UPN affiliate KYES-TV, said the station is offering sponsorships for shows premiering this fall.
“We’ve got some great opportunities with `Enterprise,’ the new Star Trek show,” Ms. Schatz said. “We’ve also added some of the popular new syndicated shows like `Friends,’ `King of the Hill’ and `Everybody Loves Raymond.’ And then `Buffy’ premieres in October, so that’s another vehicle for sponsorships.”
While station managers said fourth-quarter results remain anybody’s guess, they are hopeful that 2002 will bring a stronger economy and higher consumer confidence.
“You’ve got a large political season that’s going to play out up here,” Mr. Bradley said. “You’ve got an Olympic year. And by that time, hopefully Alaska will have a better idea as to whether or not a gas pipeline will go into place. My guess is that 2002 will be a big year.”