A Question of Balance

In the Sherman, Texas-Ada, Okla., market, a general manager's toughest task is toeing the line. With 35% of the DMA in Texas and 65% in Oklahoma, stations have to divvy up their coverage carefully. Some residents don't even like the name of nearby Lake Texoma, which separates the states.

"Our push is for localism in news," says Otis Pickett, general manager of KTEN(TV), the Lockwood Broadcasting-owned NBC affiliate in Ada. "The challenge is to have balance."

"You don't have to live here long before you realize … people don't really want to be called Texomans," says Rick Dean, general manager of KXII(TV), the Gray Television-owned CBS affiliate in Sherman.

On-air delivery is limited by geographical features in some areas. Although the area has only 51% cable penetration, satellite penetration is 38%. EchoStar will begin local-to-local coverage on its Dish network this fall, a major achievement for stations in such a small market.

With automotive and fast-food sales down, national ad revenue has followed. Medical centers, hospitals and furniture stores are big local advertisers, as are agricultural manufacturers. The TV market took a big revenue hit with the sale of a large local furniture store to a national chain, and stations are waiting for upcoming construction of a megamall in Sherman to bring jobs and ad dollars back to the area.

The overall economy is struggling. The loss of Beatrice Foods and Pillsbury factories in the past two years wiped out $53 million in payroll, and Folger's and Johnson & Johnson plants will close this year. The No. 160 DMA in population, the TV market is only No. 179 in revenue. Station revenues are projected to increase about 4.5% through 2007, according to BIA.

KXII dominates the local news market and prime time. "The two things that are the gospel in this market are the weather and sports," notes Station Manager Asa Jessee. The area is located in tornado alley, and Texas and Oklahoma are fabled foes in college football.