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Overall, Years of Growth

Van Comer, general manager of New York Times-owned KFSM-TV, can recall when the northwest part of the Fort Smith, Ark., market was better known for its apple orchards than as the headquarters of business powerhouses like Tyson Foods, JB Hunt trucking and especially Wal-Mart.

But, when Griffin's KPOM(TV) reintroduced its local news in August 2000 after eight years off the air, it specifically targeted the upscale northwest region of the DMA. As a result, says General Manager David Needham, it has been more competitive with both Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate KHBS-TV and overall market leader KFSM-TV.

The Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers DMA has its two principal segments falling on either side of the Boston Mountains range: on one side, the fast-growing, largely white-collar Northwest Arkansas; on the other, the more blue-collar Fort Smith.

Growth, overall, has defined the market, with a solid growth rate around 2%. Barely in the top 120 a couple of years back, it jumped several places to DMA No. 107, though it dropped a slot this year.

Satellite stations are needed to cover the geography, and the network affiliates offer different ads for the different parts of the DMA, adding inventory in the somewhat underperforming market.

Equity Broadcasting's KPBI-CA provides Fox programming; its KFDF-CA, UPN programming. The company's staff provides sales and marketing for local WB 100-plus cable station KWFT. Equity's KWBS-TV, licensed to the Springfield, Mo., DMA, serves Paxson programming to the Arkansas market through a satellite uplink and low-power transmitter in Fort Smith.

Wal-Mart, naturally, is the dominant retailer, although Target, Lowe's and Home Depot are growing as a presence and as advertisers in the market. In addition to retail, advertising is led by automotive, telecommunications, financial and furniture.