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Local Market Spotlight: Chicago

Dec 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Though station managers in Chicago said the TV ad market is down for the year, they have seen an increase in sales since the Sept. 11 attacks and hope the increase will help improve their fourth-quarter numbers.
“Everybody in the market went five or six days in September without running ads,” said Ed Pearson, general sales manager for ABC affiliate WLS-TV. “A lot of advertisers rethought their messages, and it took them time to get their creative together. So right now almost everybody is trying to get back in to re-establish their brands and to re-express those monies they couldn’t spend in the disaster week in September.”
According to BIA Financial Network, Chicago TV revenues were $911.3 million in 2000 and are expected to be $820.2 million in 2001.
Top ad categories are automotive, restaurants, retail and telecommunications. Larry Wert, president and general manager of NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV, said tourism is also becoming a bigger category.
According to BIA Financial Network, the market has 65 percent cable penetration out of 3.36 million television households. Peter Heisinger, VP and general manager for AT&T Media Services in Chicago, said the decline in ad sales has “forced everybody to go back and pay attention to the fundamentals.”
“This has been a year of getting back to those things that matter from a sales perspective,” Mr. Heisinger said, “ whether that be activity or client relationships or really focusing on how you’re pricing and packaging.”
Walt DeHaven, VP and general manager of CBS affiliate WBBM-TV, agreed. “In a market like Chicago, there’s over $4 billion in advertising dollars spent in a given year,” Mr. DeHaven said. “There’s plenty to go around; television just needs to capture more of its fair share. And the way you do that is by getting out, telling a compelling message and making sure people understand the true value of the medium.”
One of the events station managers expect will impact ad sales in the fourth quarter and 2002 are the gubernatorial and state senate races. “Four years ago, when we had [both races] going on at the same time, it was the biggest year in history for political advertising in Chicago,” said Dominic Mancuso, general sales manager for WB affiliate WGN-TV. “Once again we have [both] at the same time. We expect the primary to be pretty wild in terms of political spending.”
Neal Sabin, executive VP of Weigel Broadcasting, which owns independent station WCIU-TV, said the city’s diversity will help pull it through the current economic climate.
“We have a diverse workplace,” Mr. Sabin said. “Our real estate has never crashed like it has in other places. We’ve got sports teams that people are fanatic over no matter how they play. And the diversity of the people helps as well. We have a large African American community. We have a large Hispanic community. We just have large. That’s not to say we’re not going to be down as a marketplace. But Chicago has a lot of strengths to make it weather the storm.”