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The Big D Picture

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Dallas-Ft. Worth market is thriving. Nielsen's seventh-largest market covers a massive 24,000 square miles, larger than the New York, Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn., DMAs combined.

“This is an affluent market that indexes high in education and income,” says KTVT President/GM Steve Mauldin. Dallas-Ft. Worth performs two spots above its market rank in revenue, according to BIA Financial analysis. BIA extimates $680 million in gross revenue last year. But automotive advertising—25% of market ad revenue—is soft, despite the fact that Dallas-Ft. Worth is a top truck and SUV market.

Big changes will come in December, when Nielsen is slated to introduce its local people meters (LPMs), which will provide daily demographic ratings data—the currency for local ad sales. In markets like New York and Chicago, where LPMs are in place, some stations' ratings have dropped. KDFW GM Kathy Saunders takes the long view: “Every day, we see household data that doesn't mean anything. It will be good to get data we can sell on.”

In the mornings, Fox-owned KDFW's four-hour local morning show outperforms the network morning shows. In the late afternoon, Belo Corp.'s ABC affiliate WFAA takes over. The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4 p.m. helps WFAA's first-placed 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news.

WFAA used to be the late-news leader too. In recent years, NBC-owned KXAS and CBS O&O KTVT have gone on the offensive. CBS hits, such as CSI and Survivor, make KTVT the prime time leader, and in February, its news moved up to second place at 10 p.m., pushing WFAA back to third. But KXAS has ruled at 10 p.m. for the past four years.

Each station has its power points. WFAA collaborates with Belo's other local outlets, the Dallas Morning News and regional cable news channel Texas Cable News Network, although Belo has drastically scaled back that operation. Fox also owns indie KDFI, which holds TV rights to baseball's Texas Rangers. KVTV can partner with its sister UPN station KTXA, while KXAS shares studio and support operations with NBC-owned Telemundo station KXTX.

The market's vastness creates challenges. Cable penetration is very low, at 48%. Charter and Comcast are the two major operators.

To cover all the local angles, stations have bureaus in both Dallas and Ft. Worth, which are about 30 miles apart. “These are two dynamic but very different cities,” says KXAS President/GM Tom O'Brien. “Dallas has a cosmopolitan feel, and Ft. Worth is where the West begins.”

Next: Mobile, Ala.–Pensacola, Fla.