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N.C.'s Comeback Market

The Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, N.C., market had a great run in the late 1990s, with TV market revenue rising from $75 million to nearly $90 million in 2000. Last year, though, it fell off 18%. This year has seen a good comeback so far, say local execs, who believe the market's best years are ahead.

The market's underlying economy has been damaged in recent years by withdrawals and relocations in major local industries like tobacco and textiles. But leaders are hoping to build an economy with biomedicine centered on the Wake Forest Medical Center.

Automotive, naturally, is the advertising king, and politics was reasonably good to the market despite a primary season delayed by redistricting disputes. Retailer Rooms to Go Furniture has come into the market in a big way, selling furniture around High Point, the country's leading furniture-manufacturing area. "It's all about brilliant marketing," observes WXII(TV) General Manager Hank Price.

The 16-county North Carolina DMA is among the more competitive markets. "When I left the market 12 years ago," says Price, "one station [WFMY-TV] dominated. Today, there are three stations that, in my view, are fairly evenly matched. Any one can win."

With its momentum-gaining prime time schedule and strong local news, CBS affiliate WFMY won the November book overall, but recent sweeps periods have scattered victories for NBC affiliate WXII and Fox O&O WGHP(TV).

The market's local news drew national attention when Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate WXLV-TV dropped its newscast earlier this year. Local news of a different mix may be on tap when Sinclair brings its local-central newscast to the market in the next two years.

"It's a great market," says Hooper, who grew up there and serves on the local chamber of commerce. "It's easy to get to the beach and the mountains, it's halfway between Washington and Atlanta, and it has four distinct seasons. And as we transition through the current economic situation, we're looking at a very bright future. We have to have people discover us all over again."