Skip to main content

It's not just beer

Milwaukee and beer are indelibly linked. But the market is about more than brew. Some of the country's biggest businesses are headquartered here; new General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt was promoted out of the Milwaukee-based GE Medical division. The city's annual Summerfest was hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 as the U.S.'s largest music festival. And the city's brand-new Miller Brewing-owned baseball park drew 3 million attendees to Brewers games this year.

"In a broadcast sense, we've had a down year in 2001. We're no different than anyone else," points out Pete Monfre, vice president of sales at Hearst-Argyle ABC affiliate WISN-TV. "But economy-wise, we've moved beyond the 'Rust Belt' label," he insists.

However, he is looking forward to the upcoming 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson, another hometown company, as "a gigantic" boost for the ad market. For the 95th celebration, Harley sellers ran a lot of appreciation spots over local stations' air.

The increasing variety of the market has fueled a competitive spirit in local news, says Monfre. WISN-TV and NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV are regularly neck-and-neck with their newscasts, with WTMJ-TV usually victorious in households and WISN-TV tending to come out on top in the key news demographic, adults 25-54. Fox O&O WITI-TV is also considered a tough news rival.

Mary Alice Tierney, a spokesperson for WTMJ-TV parent Journal Broadcast Group, calls Milwaukee "a very sophisticated market in terms of news viewing. They are very proud of their community and have high expectations for quality news."

WTMJ-TV takes its news so seriously, she insists, that, "unequivocally, the economy will not impact the quality of [its] news," even though network executives have voiced concern about stepping up operations to cover the war against terrorism in this economy.