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Mountains To Climb

Mile-high Denver has more peaks and valleys than those shown on topographical maps; they turn up on charts of economic indicators as well.

"Denver is a city that has a glorious past of boom and bust," explains Roger Ogden, general manager of NBC affiliate KUSA-TV. "We were born of a silver and gold boom in 1859 and since then went through about eight cycles. We did pretty well in the 1990s," he says, "and then in the last year and a half or so, a lot of the high-tech businesses were impacted so we've had a downturn. We're looking forward to 2004 as the beginning of an upturn year."

According to Derek Dalton, general manager of WB affiliate KWGN-TV, "There have been encouraging signs in the ad marketplace; we're projecting the second quarter to be up a couple of points."

But Dalton sees a challenge toward the end of the year: "The one thing the marketplace will be up against in the third and fourth quarters is a record political year last year. Last year, there was $26 million in political money in the market. So the back half will be very competitive to make up that."

Cable has become a growing competitor for ad dollars, according to Ogden. "Comcast has virtually all of the wired homes from Fort Collins, which is 60 miles to the north but part of our DMA, down through the southern metropolitan area. And they have become more sophisticated in how they sell it and pull it all together."

Ogden and KUSA-TV are fighting back with the Internet. "We made a decision about five years ago to really develop our Web activities and to use [the Internet] very aggressively as a new-business-development tool."

Dalton preaches the importance of outreach. "We're part of the Tribune Co., and, through our WB2 Charities [a partner of the McCormick-Tribune Foundation], we've given back more than $30 million to the community over the last 10 years. I just believe philanthropy is good for business."