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One Station, Many Rivals

At first glance, ABC affiliate KAIT-TV might seem to have the Jonesboro, Ark., market all locked up: It's the only TV station in town. But first impressions can be deceiving, says Clyde Anderson, general manager of the Liberty Corp.-owned station, and that's because the market is heavily cabled.

With cable penetration of 66% in the seven-county DMA, 77% in the metro area and 79% in Jonesboro's home county, KAIT-TV faces competition on the basic tiers alone from CBS and NBC affiliates in Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark.; the ABC station in Little Rock; a Fox affiliate in Memphis; PBS stations in Memphis and Little Rock; and an independent religious station from Little Rock that simulcasts on a channel in Jonesboro.

"The biggest problem," says Anderson, "is our DMA size. Although we're the No. 1-most-viewed station in probably about 19 or 20 counties, we only get to claim seven of them in the DMA. We may have the biggest sign-on-to-sign-off share, but, when you take Memphis, where you've got four or five stations, and you add them up collectively, they knock me out of the county. But, when you look at the county-by-county breakdowns, we're the most dominant station in about 19 counties."

And that imported television competition is not all. "From a sales standpoint," he explains, "our biggest competitors are Clear Channel radio and Saga Communications. Saga has three stations, and Clear Channel has six. And we've got a real good newspaper here, the Jonesboro Sun. And cable is also a competitor. We've got four or five major MSOs—Cox, Cablevision, Charter, Classic—and several smaller ones." So far this year, Anderson says, "we're pacing on budget, doing fairly well. The local market is a little bit ahead of budget."

Being the only station in town doesn't mean it's not looking ahead. "We've been broadcasting an HD signal since January," he says. "We're working on some building-expansion plans to develop a bigger newsroom and HD studio two or three years down the road."