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Big dog in small market

The Macon, Ga., DMA sits about 80 miles and more than 110 markets south of Atlanta. The slightly overperforming No. 122 market has one VHF TV station and looks to break $30 million in revenue this year for the first time.

That lone VHF, WMAZ(TV), is unquestionably the big dog here. The oldest station in the market, it brings in more than twice the revenue of its nearest competitor and, in ratings, is among the top CBS affiliates. The station dominates in local newscasts, and General Manager Don McGuoirk expects the Nielsen book to show his station the winner for even the NBC Olympics-dominated February sweeps. Local NBC affiliate WGMT(TV) is still expected to have an excellent February book.

But, in Macon, says one competitor, "if the TV's on, WMAZ gets credit for it."

Even in recent down times, the job market has been stable, due largely to the prominence of the federal government as the key local employer. Automotive, fast food, mobile homes and furniture retailers are key advertisers in what appears to be a growing market. Cellular looked promising, but the reduction in players through consolidation may have limited its advertising potential.

WMAZ may be the dominant station, but WPGA-TV has not given up. Although trailing in ratings, the Radio Perry-owned ABC affiliate grabbed even national attention with a controversial campaign that suggested that it was signing "off." That "off" turned out to be short for "off and running" on behalf of the local Salvation Army. Station owner Lowell Register called it "deceptive … but not false."

In January, the station revamped its local newscast after trying a fast-paced "action" format both with and without anchors and now focuses on sports—which, Register says, had been the former newscast's strength. Given WMAZ's dominance, he says, he's looking to offer alternative programming.