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The Big Apple Towers

One of the biggest issues facing New York television broadcasters remains when they're going to "get high" again. Since 9/11, most stations have been relegated to broadcasting from the Empire State Building at reduced power.

Several stations have penned agreements for backup facilities atop an office tower in Times Square, allowing them to resume digital broadcasts. The Metropolitan Television Alliance has a letter of intent to place a transmitting tower at the site of new World Trade Center development.

New York was hit hardest by the terrorist attacks in 2001, and its economy has been one of the slowest to recover. Still, some general managers are optimistic about 2004. "Fourth quarter for most of us panned out better than we expected," says Betty Ellen Berlamino, of Tribune's WPIX-TV. "Retail was good, movie business was good, and pacing for 2004 is looking positive."

Stations should pick up some business, she adds, as local inventories tighten during NBC's coverage of the 2004 Olympics. A political-spending windfall is unlikely, though: "This is a big state for Democrats. Republicans consider political money ill spent, and the Democrats figure they don't have to spend anything."

ABC O&O WABC-TV remained the top station in total households (6 a.m.-2 a.m.) and scored the No. 1 local news program at both 6 and 11 p.m. during the November sweeps. The success of CBS's prime time lineup drove WCBS-TV to new heights. It moved into first place during prime, although its CBS2 News at 11
still finished third behind WNBC-TV.

Univision's WXTV(TV) posted major news gains, finishing first in the 18-34 demo, beating all English-language stations. Noticias Univision 41
was fourth in total households. "The Hispanic population as a group tends to be more interested in news at a younger age than is the Anglo population," says WXTV spokesman Ted Faraone, "and that helped us considerably."

At 80%, cable penetration ranks among the highest in major U.S. markets. Cablevision (3 million subs) and Time Warner Cable (1.5 million) are the largest operators. The New York Interconnect, operated by Cablevision and Comcast, reaches 3.6 million households and inserts local ads on 35 cable networks.