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Nothing Mickey Mouse about it

Lots of competition and close races in most dayparts. That pretty much sums up the Orlando, Fla., TV market. "We've got eight free over-the-air viewer options," says William Hoffman, director of sales at Cox's WFTV (ABC) and WRDQ (independent). "That's a lot for the 21st market. It's hard in an eight-station market to have what we used to refer to as a 'dominant position'—where you take your performance in a time period and add up your two closest competitors and they equal you."

Says Jeff Sales, GM of WKMG-TV (CBS), "Late news is the real dogfight" between WKMG, WFTV and WESH (NBC). "There's not half a rating point between any of us sometimes. In terms of corporate ownership, we have Cox, Hearst-Argyle, Post-Newsweek and Fox, so everybody is a big player, and they all play for keeps." In the February Nielsen ratings, "everybody had a slice of something," he says. "All the big stations in the market could say, 'We dominated something' or 'We did something really well.' Anybody who wants bragging rights in this last book can have them."

The Orlando market includes Melbourne and Daytona Beach and is a well-known tourist destination (with multiple theme parks from Disney, Sea World and Universal), but it has more to offer as an economic base. Sales explains: "We have the Space Coast—the Kennedy Space Center and all the support around it, like Lockheed and virtually every high-tech company you can think of. There's banking and regional hospitals. Growth is simply incredible. Population in Orange County, which is Orlando proper, has grown 30% over the last 10 years. And it doesn't show signs of slowing down."

Hoffman is optimistic: "We see the second quarter being better than the first quarter, and I think there's reserved optimism that we're going to see each quarter getting better. We could see some political soft money coming into the market as early as the third quarter, and it looks like we'll absolutely see some in the fourth. That means that all stations with good news products will be the ones who take on the brunt of that advertising demand."