Guarded optimism in Louisiana

Baton Rouge is something of an anomaly as a television market, especially one that happens to be the seat of state, parish (Louisiana's term for county) and city government. Although there are five broadcast TV stations and three cable-only network channels (WB, UPN and Pax), only two stations carry local news: ABC affiliate WBRZ(TV) and CBS affiliate WAFB(TV).

Says WBRZ GM Pat Cheramie, "It's a very competitive market, but the good news is, both WBRZ and WAFB have very good numbers and demos to sell," with the tightest races at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. "It's a very good news market because of state government," she continues. "The two stations combined deliver an average 33 household rating, Monday through Friday."

With that economic base of government, coupled with a huge petrochemical industry, port facilities and Louisiana State University and Southern University, "Baton Rouge is one of the few markets in Louisiana that's growing," says Ron Winders, WAFB's GM. "So we're not having a problem locally, but the national market is certainly very soft. National has picked up this month, so we're hoping to see a turnaround in the foreseeable future." But he's not just waiting for things to improve. "When things get tight, you become more creative," he adds. "Relying on the fax machine and doing lunch with the agency guy once a month isn't going to do it in this economy."

Cheramie's situation is similar: "Our first quarter was up, but last year was nothing to write home about, with a softfirst quarter. Second quarter 2001 is pacing is pretty flat. Being the 96th DMA, we pace month to month. Our station's revenues are about 70% local vs. 30% national, so it's very hard to project because you have a few long-term buys but not enough to give you a pulse. But all of our local economists say third and fourth quarter are coming back."

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