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Lansing Motors On

The five over-the-air stations in Lansing, Mich., are helped by city's stature as the state capital, the presence of a large university and the economic input of a major car manufacturer. "This is a very stable economy," says WLAJ(TV) General Manager Jim Wareham.

The market's stability is reflected in its revenue rank. Lansing is the nation's 111th largest but its 2002 TV revenue ranked 99th.

ABC affiliate WLAJ, a Freedom Communications station, creates a triangle by being part of a local marketing agreement with Venture Technologies' WHTV(TV), which airs UPN. WLAJ also sells and administers The WB 100+ cable channel, which beams that network into Lansing via the city's two cable systems, Comcast and Millenium. The master control room at WLAJ handles both ABC and UPN, and the advertising and sales departments promote all three networks.

"WB approached WLAJ initially. We approached WHTV," said Wareham.

The combination makes for an "economically efficient model" that Wareham calls the "wave of the future" for small markets. "This is something that allows small broadcasters to be profitable in small markets."

Automotive is the top supplier of ad revenue for the market, but the presence of five GM plants also makes for a volatile employment picture when car sales decline or GM suffers a bad year.

Mike King, general manager of NBC affiliate WILX-TV, says that markets the size of Lansing don't get much regional or national spot business from car makers. Because GM has such a heavy presence in the market, he says, the automaker "hardly spends any money in the market."

The state government is the largest employer in the DMA with Michigan State University second, followed by General Motors, which employs approximately 12,000 at its factories and at a high tech facility, the largest of its kind in the world.