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L.A. Story

Los Angeles is movie stars having dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills. It’s also day laborers enjoying quesadillas at a taqueria in East L.A. The market is one of the most economically, geographically and ethnically diverse regions in the country.

Nielsen’s second-largest market counts nearly 18.5 million people, and the diversity is stunning: According to Nielsen, 43% of residents are Hispanic, 11% are Asian and 7% are African-American.

“This is the only market in the country with seven English-language broadcasters and seven Spanish-language stations,” notes KNBC President/General Manager Paula Madison, who also oversees Tele­mundo stations KWHY and KVEA.

Local stations nabbed $1.715 billion in gross revenue in 2004, tops in the U.S. and up from $1.548 billion in 2003. KNBC racked up $299 million in 2004, while KABC, KCBS, KTTV and KTLA each took in more than $175 million.

Across the famously sprawling L.A. market—the five main counties cover 34,149 square miles—residents are pushing into new suburbs, and housing prices are climbing. Over 40% of homes are worth more than $250,000, more than double the average in the other top 75 markets, according to Scarborough Research. Says KABC President/General Manager Arnie Kleiner, “There are no cold areas.”

Covering the vastness is a major challenge. Most stations maintain bureaus in tony Orange County and inland Riverside County. KCBS, KABC and KNBC often out send two helicopters each, with the sharpest images coming from KABC’s high-definition chopper, a market first.

The local scene is equally complex. KNBC wins late news, although Univision outlet KMEX pulls in higher demographic ratings. KABC typically leads early-evening news, with KNBC close behind.

Early morning is a slugfest between KNBC, KABC, KTTV and KTLA. KCBS, which has spent big on high- profile anchors, is improving. In May, it beat KABC in late news for the first time in 25 years. “The investments we’ve made are starting to pay off,” says Don Corsini, president/general manager of KCBS and KCAL.

Execs insist that the advertising market is generally solid. Automotive, movie and retail spending is down, but furniture and home-improvement advertising is on the upswing. A bright spot is political advertising—much of it either criticizing or supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stand on various issues. Says KTLA VP/General Manger Vinnie Malcolm, “The issue money is becoming more important than money from political candidates.”