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Carolinas on Their Mind

Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville plays a bit bigger than one might expect. The DMA, touching both North and South Carolina, is No. 36 despite not having a major metropolitan center or state capital. And the market will further move toward the big time when Southwest Airlines begins flying in and out of Greenville- Spartanburg Airport next March.

WYFF President/General Manager Michael J. Hayes, who is chairman of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, calls Southwest’s arrival a “coming of age” for the market. “It’s the next piece in our economic development,” he says.

Southwest’s entry will facilitate business travel in the region and spur job growth. It also helps diversify Greenville-Spartanburg’s economic portfolio, which is largely reliant on auto manufacturing, including a GE engine plant, Michelin’s headquarters and Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research.

Ratings are primarily a two-car race between Media General’s CBS outlet, WSPA, and Hearst TV’s NBC affiliate, WYFF. WYFF won morning and early evening news in the May sweeps, while WSPA earned the top total day, primetime and late news household ratings; its 6.8 rating/12.9 share at 11 p.m. bested WYFF’s 5.8/10.9. WSPA also won the 2009 revenue race, according to BIA/Kelsey, with slightly more than $24 million. (WYFF billed $21.5 million.)

Media General owns both WSPA and CW outlet WYCW. Sinclair has ABC affiliate WLOS and manages Cunningham’s MyNetworkTV affiliate, WMYA. Meredith owns Fox affiliate WHNS. Charter is the main pay-TV operator.

WSPA is making a big local push with the 10 a.m. program Your Carolina and the 7:30 p.m. lifestyle show Scene on7. Phil Lane, WSPA VP/ general manager, likens Scene on 7 to a Carolinascentric Entertainment Tonight. “It allows us to be very creative on the content side and sales side,” Lane says. “It’s done well beyond what we expected, from a ratings and revenue standpoint.”

WHNS has Meredith’s popular Better program, which gives stations a few local inserts in each episode. “We like the feel of the show,” says Guy Hempel, WHNS VP/GM. “We like the ability to localize it every day.”

WLOS prefers to keep its focus within the confines of the DMA. “We try to be as local as we can be,” says GM Jack Connors. “We reflect the interests and needs of people in our primary coverage area —we don’t spend a lot of time on national news.”

WYFF has the market’s lone 4:30 a.m. local news, and the competition doesn’t seem to be jumping in any time soon. “The ways people consume media continue to change,” says Hayes. “All research points to the fact that people consume a lot more morning news.”

After a strong primary season, ad spending for the general election lagged a bit, with the candidates failing to get the major funding from their parties. Talk on the streets around northern South Carolina is about the elections and jobs — and how the state’s new leaders can spark employment. “Everything else is a lot further down on the interest inventory,” says Connors.

Auto spending is strong, and station executives say just about all ad categories are solid. “It’s not through the roof, but it’s in the high single digits,” says Hempel. “We’ll take high single digits.”

Locals anticipate that Southwest’s arrival will boost the region’s profile. Says Hayes: “It’s a transformational deal for the marketplace.”

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