A dual personality

The Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, Ill., market consists largely of four cities in two dual-metro areas—Champaign-Danville and Decatur-Springfield—and 19 counties, with considerable focus on two central social and economic forces: politics and the University of Illinois.

Perhaps because politics and education are somewhat more recession-proof than other businesses, insiders believe that the market has suffered a bit less than others. Political ads in the market, which includes Illinois capital Springfield, should be strong in 2002, with several candidates lining up for the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominations for this year's election.

2001's overall gross revenues are likely to be down from 2000 by about 10%, well under the 15%-20% drops reported in many markets. As in most markets, automotive is a major advertiser, and—with a relatively high per capita income of $17,370—so are restaurants, both local and fast-food.

Perhaps it's the concentration of political and educational personnel that makes for "a very mature, very intelligent audience here [in Champaign] and in Springfield," says Perry Chester, general manager of Nexstar-owned CBS affiliate WCIA, which typically fights for first place in local news with Sinclair Broadcasting's NBC affiliate WICS.

The market will likely get a new programming entity this year, with Nexstar likely to turn its WCFN(TV) Springfield from a slave-satellite station for WCIA to a UPN affiliate. Chester says Nexstar would like to boost its presence in Springfield, although the station will not likely carry local news for a while. "We would first establish the station as a network affiliate and probably add news later, maybe a year from now."