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Market Eye: Upwardly Mobile

The German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp is completing a long-awaited 3,600-acre processing facility in northern Mobile, which is expected to bring around 2,700 jobs to the Deep South market. The hiring has begun, giving residents in the Mobile-Pensacola area another reason to be optimistic. “The impact of the new jobs is just beginning to hit us,” says WKRG VP/General Manager Joe Goleniowski.

After the long, harsh recession, business is picking up in DMA No. 60. The automotive industry is spending big on television again, and the market will benefit from high-level political races in both Alabama and Florida. The fractious mood in our nation’s capital has increased the political tension, as well as the amount candidates will spend to get their message out. “We should see some heavy spending on the political side,” says WEAR/WFGX General Manager Terry Cole, “with all that’s been going on [in Washington].”

A number of stations can lay claim to Mobile-Pensacola ratings primacy. Sinclair’s ABC affiliate WEAR won the morning and evening news races in February, while Newport Television’s NBC affiliate WPMI grabbed total day ratings and late news on the strength of the Winter Olympics— its 8.9 household rating/20.2 share at 10 bested Media General’s CBS outlet WKRG’s 7.0 rating/16 share. WKRG won the 10 p.m. news race in November, while LIN TV’s Fox affiliate WALA, run by Matt Pumo, put up the top news numbers at 9.

A trio of duopolies exist: LIN owns CW outlet WFNA, Newport has independent WJTC, and Sinclair’s got MyNetworkTV- aligned WFGX. Sinclair is installing a new transmitter this summer to get WFGX’s formerly low-power signal across the whole of the market.

General managers here say the parent companies give stations the resources to produce big-market news. “Four stations go after the news aggressively,” Goleniowski says. “The community is well served by the broadcasters here.”

With so many tight races, Mobile-Pensacola stations are eager to one-up each other. Goleniowski says WKRG is hiring again. Offering high-definition local news, WEAR introduced a 6 a.m. Saturday-Sunday newscast in October. WALA debuted the first of LIN’s local iPhone apps last year. Shea Grandquest took over the Newport stations in late 2008.

Mobile-Pensacola has a rich military tradition; the area is home to bases such as Eglin AFB and Naval Air Station Pensacola, as well as the famed Blue Angels. Formerly with WGME Portland, Maine, Cole is coming up on a year in the region and digs the new environs. “It’s a beautiful market, with great weather and very friendly people,” he says. “And the beaches stretch from one town to the other.”