Capital Gains in Virginia

An influx of white-collar jobs, coupled with steady state employment, is making the Richmond, Va., region one of the South’s best success stories. Spanning 32 counties in eastern Virginia, Richmond-Petersburg is the 61st-largest TV market, according to Nielsen Media Research. Richmond is the state capital and the headquarters for several high-profile companies—notably, Circuit City, Capital One and Philip Morris—as well as a growing number of technology firms. New development projects, including two upscale malls, are fueling the real estate and retail sectors.

“Richmond is becoming a destination market,” says Gerald Walsh, VP/general manager for UPN affiliate WUPV, the only locally owned outlet in the market.

Local broadcast business is healthy. Richmond outperforms its market size in revenue, ranking as the No. 59 market, according to BIA Financial. TV stations grossed $85.5 million last year, up from $79.6 million in 2003. NBC affiliate WWBT led the pack with $27.3 million. This year, advertising from the gubernatorial race is helping fill station coffers, and spending will heat up this fall.

“The economy is solid and steady,” says WWBT VP/General Manager Don Richards, “and that helps the broadcast industry.”

WWBT, a legacy station whose evening anchors have been teamed for 20 years, leads the market in news and overall ratings. For the past eight periods, the NBC affiliate was tops in all newscasts except noon, won by CBS affiliate WTVR. The other broadcasters post strong numbers, too. WWBT won the late-news race in May, for example, with an 11.4 rating/22 share, and WTVR, whose ratings have been climbing, followed with a 9.6/18. Fox affiliate WRLH’s 10 p.m. news, which is produced by WWBT, posted a 6/9, and WRIC collected a 4.6/9 for its 11 p.m. newscast.

Richmond’s news appetite is hearty in early evening. WWBT airs the only 4 p.m. news, which beats Judge Judy on WTVR. At 5 p.m., the NBC outlet’s news beats The Oprah Winfrey Show on WRIC. At 6 p.m., WRIC runs second to WWBT. In fall 2006, 4 p.m. gets more competitive when WTVR picks up The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

This fall, WTVR will air The Tyra Banks Show at 9 a.m., and WRLH is adding Sex and the City, South Park and The Bernie Mac Show, while WUPV is picking up Friends. WWBT carries The WB programming late nights and weekends, and WUPV is the third-highest-rated UPN outlet in the country.