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Like a resort, with news

The Spokane, Wash., DMA comprises parts of three states—Washington, Idaho and Montana—and 24 counties and provides network programming for Canadian cities Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, via satellite.

Northwest Broadcasting Inc.-owned Fox affiliate KAYU-TV also operates co-owned Fox affiliates KCYU-LP and KFFX-TV in Yakima-Tri-Cities (Pasco-Richland-Kennewick, Wash.). "We've pioneered the centralcast for more than a decade," says General Manager Jon Rand.

Local stations have been disappointed that they have not been carried on the many satellite dishes in the widespread, mountainous DMA. It wouldn't be especially difficult, says Rand, since the signals are already carried over satellite.

News is highly competitive in the market. "We may be the 78th-ranked," he points out, "but, to the credit of my competitors as well as ourselves, the quality of the news belies its market size. We have a great competition in news here."

Leadership in local-news ratings has shifted, from KHQ(TV) to KREM-TV. Key in KREM-TV's rise, according to General Manager Bud Brown, appears to be its hiring of anchor Randy Shaw, who had been fired at KHQ, after Shaw sat out a six-month noncompete.

Given the area's high participation levels in winter sports, Nielsen reports for February sweeps will likely show an especially strong performance by Cowles Publications-owned NBC affiliate KHQ, which won the November sweeps as well. Living in the Pacific Northwest, says Brown, "is like living in a resort. I think you'll find that the highest ratings for the Olympics, other than Salt Lake City, will be in the Northwest—Seattle, Portland and here."

Advertising is typically led by automotive and fast food, with retail furniture a strong participant as well. The market dropped off by about 15% last year, mostly after the first quarter. This year, the first quarter will be down from last year's. Still, local execs say, the 2001 market wasn't off that much when the political advertising that contributed to 2000's record year is factored out.