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Market Eye: Maine Events

Things are brightening in the Portland-Auburn market. Sailboats and ferries dot Casco Bay, and tourists start filling the sleepy streets and tranquil beaches this time of year. Indications from Memorial Day weekend suggest a little tourism growth.

The summer season isn't a long one in the No. 77 DMA, but people make the most of it. “In July and August and part of September, there's probably no place on the planet I'd rather be,” says WMTW President/General Manager Ken Bauder.

With an early sunrise and an aging population, Portland is an early-to-bed/early-to-rise market. The 6 p.m. news is the newscast of record, and Gannett's WCSH has a stranglehold on it; its 17.0 household rating/36 share in March nearly tripled the runner-up's numbers. (Portland was awaiting May results.) President/General Manager Steve Thaxton says that's 91 straight sweeps wins at 6.

The NBC affiliate takes all races except primetime, which went to Sinclair's CBS affiliate WGME. WCSH won morning news with a 12.0/50, and late news with a 4.0/22. The foursome on at 6 p.m. celebrates 20 years together next year, and the rest of the newsroom is just as market-savvy. “When you're here so long, you know what the big stories are and how to tell them,” Thaxton says. “How can you compete with a newsroom where the people have lived their whole lives [in Portland]?”

Besides WGME, which bid farewell to general manager Terry Cole when he relocated to WEAR Pensacola in early June, the rivals include Hearst-Argyle's ABC outlet WMTW, Max Media's Fox affiliate WPFO, New Age Media's CW affiliate WPXT and MPS' MyNetworkTV station WPME.

In such a remote market, localism is big. WMTW will launch “u local,” where users can post videos and create Web pages. WPFO has success with Fox Lifestyles and Your Hometown. WPXT's year-old Maine Visitor's Channel offers tourism tips in hotel rooms around the market. “It's turned a profit since the day it went on the air,” says WPXT General Manager Doug Finck.

Home to large medical and fishing industries, the Portland economy is ailing. “We're probably not as hard hit as some areas like Florida,” Cole says, “but business is down, no question.” It's prompted sales crews to pound the pavement—as well as the newspapers and Yellow Pages—for new business.

“We'd gotten a little comfortable with the people we usually do business with,” says WPFO President/General Manager Tom MacArthur. “We're finding some new advertisers now.”

CORRECTION: In the May 25 Market Eye, B&C reported that WITI Milwaukee won morning news with its 7 a.m. program in March. In fact, the Fox affiliate was up against network programs at 7. A better metric is 6 a.m.; WISN won with a 4.5 HH rating/18 share. B&C regrets the error.

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