Market Eye: Pep Raleigh

The Raleigh-Durham market is experiencing booming growth. The No. 29 DMA as recently as 2007, Raleigh-Durham slid into Nielsen’s 26th spot this fall, ahead of Baltimore. General managers are hopeful the influx continues.

“We want to get into the Top 25,” says WRAZ VP/General Manager Tommy Schenck. “We want to pass Indianapolis.”

Capitol Broadcasting dominates the North Carolina capital. The family-run company owns CBS affiliate WRAL and Fox outlet WRAZ, and WRAL wins the ratings races. It took total-day ratings and primetime in May, along with morning, evening and late news—the latter with a 9.6 household rating/16.6 share, better than ABC O&O WTVD’s 6.5/11.4. Other stations include Media General’s NBC affiliate WNCN, Sinclair’s CW-MyNetworkTV duopoly WLFL/WRDC, and Univision’s WUVC, which offers news at 7 and 11 p.m. and TeleFutura programming on its digital channel.

Capitol has for years invested handsomely in WRAL: It was the first station in the country to offer local news in full HD, it has a documentary department, and it will simulcast its signal on city buses this fall.

Steve Hammel, who marks a year as WRAL VP/general manager in November, says unwavering backing is vital in a recession. “When you’re experiencing a tough economy, there’s not a better station in America to be at,” he says. “Everyone’s impacted by the economy, but not everyone’s impacted by quarterly shareholder reports.”

WRAL and WRAZ maintain separate facilities—WRAL in Raleigh and WRAZ in Durham. The stations keep separate sales and marketing departments and have their own general managers.

WRAL claimed $57.85 million last year, according to BIA Financial, ahead of WTVD’s $49.9 million. Television business was down an estimated 25% in the first half of 2009, but is showing signs of a second-half rally. Raleigh-Durham benefits from a diverse economy that’s strong in health care, pharmaceuticals, government and education; the “Triangle,” as the area is known, connects Duke, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State.

“As a result of these diverse [industries], the economy here has not taken as much of a hit as the rest of the country,” Hammel says.

Stations are eager to reach out to new arrivals. WTVD produces its high-energy breaking news for CW outlet WLFL. WNCN President/General Manager Barry Leffler is leaving the station to run a talk radio outlet in the coming weeks. WNCN will relaunch its microsite, which reports on 20 local communities, toward the end of 2009.

WRAZ is boosting its event marketing business, such as the Fox50 Family Fest bash it hosted in downtown Durham Oct. 3. “We have a real focus on new revenue sources,” Schenck says. “We think that will really make us stronger when we come out of the recession.”

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.