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Putting Synergy To Work

In Wheeling, W.Va.-Steubenville, Ohio, steel used to be king. These days, steel is still around, somewhat smaller but hanging in there, while tourism, gaming and retail distribution centers pick up the slack.

In terms of television, it's a two-station market. And each uses the synergies of group ownership to improve offerings to viewers and advertisers. Tim McCoy, general manager of Cox-owned WTOV-TV, explains, "We look at our station plus Cox's WPXI(TV) Pittsburgh and WJAC-TV Johnstown, Pa., as a regional group of stations. If you put all three together, they would be the 13th market in the country. We also share news resources."

WTRF-TV is part of a four-station West Virginia group put together recently by West Virginia Media Holdings (the others are WBOY-TV Clarksburg, WOWK-TV Charleston-Huntington and WVSX Beckley-Lewisburg). "We have certainly put more of an emphasis on news," says General Manager Jim Squibb, "and we will be expanding the amount of news coverage we do, both for West Virginia and Ohio. We're also selling the stations as a package."

WTOV-TV, McCoy says, compensates for weak national spending in the second quarter through better local sales. Squibb says, at his station, "sales are good. I don't think, economically, the market is growing in dollars. We're just doing an excellent job of getting what we think should be our share."

New contributors to the local economy include the area's two gaming facilities: Wheeling Island and the Mountaineer Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va. Other sure bets are the distribution centers under construction for Wal-Mart and Cabela's.

Local programming is a major emphasis at WTOV-TV, according to McCoy. "We do five newscasts a day and a ton of local programming. Other than news, we're probably doing close to 150 hours of local programming. The gem is Jamboree in the Hills," a local country-music festival in July. "This will be the 14th year in a row that we've broadcast it. Last year, we broadcast 34 hours live. What's great is that it's first-run programming in the summertime. The ratings are through the roof."