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Big Lead in Littlest State

NBC affiliate WJAR has long been tops in Providence, R.I.-New Bedford, Mass., the nation’s 51st-largest market. And General Manager Lisa Churchville says nothing breeds success like success: “If you’re No. 1, the news sources turn to you, the syndicators turn to you, and your talent stays longer and becomes more expert in the market.” The Media General-owned station consistently wins news, booking an 11.8 rating/21.7 share in early evening last November.

But CBS affiliate WPRI is taking the fight to the champ. “WJAR has been dominant for a long time, but we’ve totally cut into them,” says General Manager Jay Howell. Owner LIN TV, which has its headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island’s capital, has added staff at the station, particularly to its Web operation. Last May, WPRI’s 5 p.m. news won among adults 18-49 for the first time in the station’s history.

Meanwhile, WNAC, the Fox affiliate owned by Super Towers and operated by WPRI, will add Family Guy this fall (see box). Freedom Communications’ ABC affiliate WLNE signed a five-year deal with cable operator Cox Communications to continue carriage of their joint 24-hour news operation, Rhode Island News Channel.

WLWC, which CBS announced last week it was selling to Cerberus Capital Management, was a hybrid UPN/WB affiliate before it became a CW affiliate last year. Ratings are way up from a year ago, says General Manager Ed Piette, and the addition this fall of the syndicated Two and a Half Men and Judge David Young should further bolster ratings. Says Piette, “We’re excited about where we’re at and where we’re going.”

The market generated an estimated $89.9 million in revenues last year, according to BIA Financial. Real estate is robust, buoyed by development in Providence and at the beach downstate, and furniture has emerged as a strong advertising category. And Verizon’s plan to offer TV service in the second quarter means both a competitor for Cox and a promise of increased advertising.

With steady government employment in Providence, station managers say the market is a good place to work and live. “For some, it’s a pit stop, but for others, it’s long-term,” says WJAR’s Churchville. “It’s a nice market with a good quality of life.”

Next: Seattle-Tacoma

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.