Local Market Spotlight: Missoula, Mont.

Oct 29, 2001  •  Post A Comment

While the national economy continues to waver, station managers in Missoula, Mont., said strong local ad sales keep them optimistic about the state of their market.
“Our local clients have a different feeling about what’s going on here,” said Keith Sommer, general manager of NBC affiliate KECI-TV. “The national and regional decisions are made in larger markets, where I think people buy into the economic worries facing the country. Missoula is kind of recession-proof. The national feeling of the economy being slowed down and the national advertisers pulling back, that did not trickle down to the local advertisers.”
According to BIA Financial Network, Missoula TV revenues were $9.4 million in 2000 and are expected to be $8.8 million in 2001.
Top ad categories are auto, banking, convenience stores, fast food and furniture. Health care and retail are also major categories.
“We’ve had things like Old Navy and Best Buy that opened up in this market,” said Linda Bouman, general manager of ABC affiliate KTMF-TV. “We just had our second Wal-Mart opening. It’s a supercenter, which causes grocery revenue to go up from the competition.”
BIA Financial Network reported that the Missoula market has 48 percent cable penetration out of 98,220 television households. Nina Smith, general manager of AT&T Media Services of Montana and Northern Wyoming, said cable is flat this year, thanks to the booming Missoula marketplace. “In a down year, we’ve been flat in that area because of its growth,” she said.
The Missoula market includes Kalispell and the Bitterroot Valley, which Ms. Bouman said is one of the fastest-growing markets in western Montana. “There’s a significant growth in people, and there’s not a significant growth in retail,” she said. “So those people who are moving to the Bitterroot Valley will have to come to Missoula to do their shopping. That’s why we remain, year after year, such a strong economic market.”
Mr. Sommer said retail chains, including Linens `n Things and Ross Dress for Less, are coming to the market in 2002. Whether these new stores’ presence will translate into ad sales, however, is uncertain.
“A lot of times with these big box stores, it looks good and sounds good and probably is good for consumers, but they don’t necessarily spend any money on advertising in the small markets,” he said. “This year has proven that where the big guys will pull back, the local guys are still out there fighting the good fight and trying to increase their position in the market.”#