Market in Transition

Things are changing in Dothan, Ala., the nation's No. 171 DMA. Nexstar acquired WDHN(TV) from Morris Multimedia in February, and rivals say Raycom Media is expected to purchase WDFX-TV from Waitt Broadcasting (Raycom also owns WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Ala.).

With the changes, says Pat Dalbey, general manager of market leader WTVY(TV), "we expect the other stations to be more competitive, but we will continue to stay ahead of them."

WDHN General Manager Mike Smith agrees that new ownership means increased competition. "We are going to do some major capital infusions, programming changes and equipment upgrades," he says about the ABC affiliate that he has been managing for five weeks (since relocating from WOAY-TV Oak Hill, W.Va.).

Gray MidAmerica's CBS affiliate WTVY is the only VHF station in the market. "Our station is the dominant station in the market," says Dalbey. "News numbers are still very strong, and prime time programming seems to be doing quite well."

WDHN's Smith notes, "Cable coverage is so widespread that it is not a determining factor" that the station is UHF. (Liberty Corp.'s WSFA-TV Montgomery, Ala., provides NBC programming on cable.)

Smith says that, while automotive is off, "all local direct business is up and doing well in basically all categories." At WTVY, the situation is reversed. While automotive is "quite robust," says Dalbey, fast food, financial, health care and general retail are down.

Dalbey expects issue money in the third quarter because the governor has proposed a tax increase that goes to referendum in September. Says Smith, "We expect an active political year next year."

Dothan is "active, robust, and appears to be growing," he adds. He is "very optimistic" because it is "on the way" to tourist attractions like Panama City, Fla.