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Quirky but stable

"Localism is the key," says WZZM-TV General Manager Janet Mason of hyphenated market Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Mich.

Stations are licensed in the three cities, over a widespread DMA. Cable penetration, at 63%, is below the national norm—with some counties as low as 30% and some as high as 79%. But satellite usage, about 19%, is higher than the national average.

Local television here has plenty of quirks. Because of the placement of WZZM-TV's tower in the northern part of the DMA, a significant portion of the southern part isn't covered, and the FCC has allowed a second ABC affiliate, WOTV, out of Battle Creek.

That station is managed by market leader and NBC affiliate WOOD-TV, which also manages the local Paxson WB affiliate and the local co-owned low-power UPN. "We actually manage and supervise five affiliates and four stations," says WOOD-TV General Manager Diane Kniowski.

"We have to watch what we put on the air," she explains. "It's a very religious area, part of the Bible Belt. But this is also an incredible test market for advertisers. People are brand loyal; they don't like change." Research shows that, in the market, people are less likely to change homes or cars as frequently as in other parts of the country. "There are a lot of people who have moved out and are coming back, to within five blocks of where they grew up."

WXMI(TV) General Manager Ed Fernandez points out, "We don't have the high peaks. We don't have the low valleys. We're beginning to see some of the effects of the market slowdown, but we enjoyed low unemployment here until late in the year."

The market saw a slight drop last year from its record year in 2000, from 119,300,000 to an estimated 118,100,000, according to BIA Financial, which projects a rebound, to 124,000,000, for 2002.