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Full of Surprises

Apr 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Cable insiders from other regions may think they know the Albuquerque, N.M., designated market area, which covers about 85 percent of New Mexico and portions of two other states, but they don’t know half of it, local ad industry executives said.

From the top ad spenders to the demographics and the market layout, much is fresh and surprising about the local cable advertising scene. The 49th-ranked DMA has a long reach, stretching into counties in Colorado and Arizona. It is about a 550-mile drive from the market’s northwest Comcast office in Durango, Colo., to its southeast facilities in Hobbs, N.M.

Nestled between the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande Valley, Albuquerque is a city of contrasts. Some residents live in sleepy pueblo neighborhoods and work at the many casinos in the market, while others leave their government-funded research jobs every day to head home to sprawling new suburbs surrounded by big-box chain stores. In April the city kicked off an 18-month tricentennial celebration. But many residents of the DMA are newcomers, including much of the artist community that flocked to the Taos area from New York and Los Angeles, inspired by the natural beauty for which the state is well known.

“For me, there is about as much contrast here as one can have,” said John Hurley, general manager of Comcast Spotlight New Mexico.

To tackle the market, Comcast Spotlight has 58 employees and six sales offices (some with their own production facilities) spread out across zones so they can better serve clients. “The business we do is 75 percent local and 25 percent national and regional. Larger markets are exactly reversed,” Mr. Hurley said. The broadcast stations in the market are the reverse of cable, doing only 25 percent local business.

One of the few U.S. markets that are minority Anglo, Albuquerque-Santa Fe has 650,000 TV households, 34.3 percent of which are Latino, according to the Comcast-operated interconnect, which owns between 85 percent and 90 percent of the market. Charter Communications and Adelphia own the rest.

English is the dominant language of the majority of Latino families, some of whom settled in the area 300 years ago, when Albuquerque was founded. Representing 66 percent of the local Hispanic community, English-dominant Latinos are up 29.4 percent since 1998 and 7.9 percent since last year, according to Nielsen Media Research and Comcast.

The majority of Latino families here, Mr. Hurley said, are 10th- and 12th-generation, and Spanish-language advertising and programming don’t work as well at reaching them as they do in, say, El Paso, Texas. Spanish-language cable network Galavision consistently does a .2 rating in the market and is not a popular choice for local advertisers.

“My clients don’t spend the dollars I’d like to see them spending in Hispanic media,” said Karen McCallum, media supervisor at agency McKee Wallwork Henderson, Albuquerque. Ms McCallum said she thinks marketers are missing part of their audience by not doing so. After all, she said, close to one-third of the Latinos in the market either are bilingual or speak only Spanish.

The largest employer in town is the government or government-funded facilities such as Los Alamos, the national atomic laboratory. These government jobs help keep the economy from faltering, Mr. Hurley said.

The gaming industry is the second-largest employer, constantly battling furniture retailers for that No. 2 spot. Twelve Native American-owned casinos serve the market, which has a population of 1.6 million. About 75 percent of residents regularly hit the slots and tables, Mr. Hurley said.

“When it comes to advertising, the casinos are as important an advertising category to the market as McDonald’s is to some other markets,” he said.

The Speed channel is a big advertiser draw for the Albuquerque metro zones. “Motorcycles are very big here,” Mr. Hurley said. “So most businesses that sell motorcycles buy the Speed channel. The revenue [we receive from Speed] is five times bigger than [from] our other specialty networks.”

Santa Fe, in contrast, has the Food Network and Home & Garden Television in its corner. According to Scarborough Research, more than 69 percent of the market’s families own their homes. Albuquerque-Santa Fe residents are 12 percent more likely to own homes than those in the other top 75 markets.