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Small but not limited

In 2001, Lima, Ohio, climbed 10 spots on Nielsen's list of DMAs, from 201 to 191—the biggest jump that year—thanks to the addition of a second county. Population has dipped slightly, though, and the DMA ranks 194 this year.

Local television executives like being surrounded by the larger Toledo, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Ind. markets. NBC affil WLIO(TV) is carried over cable systems in them and has even been granted must-carry status over some. General Manager Bruce Opperman says it draws revenue from outside its official market.

He thinks the market benefits from the density in neighboring markets. "Lima is very much a retail shopping hub for 40 to 50 miles. That's why we get advertising from Home Depot, Lowe's, Kohl's, Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, all the Kmarts and the Wal-Marts: People would rather come here to shop than fight the traffic."

Given nearly 50 years of local dominance by WLIO, local owner Greg Phipps knows his stations have a long way to go, but he's trying to make a race of it with a Class A Fox affiliate, low-power UPN affil and recently acquired low-power independent.

He puts on an hour of local news carried on both his older stations—and anchored by Kathleen Phipps, his wife—and runs high school sporting events in addition to network shows. "We're running these low-powers like full-powers," he says. "In a small DMA, low-power is not as a big a concern as long as you've got cable coverage."

Both operators say the lack of local competition gives them whatever they want in syndication. "We've got Regis and Kelly, Hollywood Squares, Dr. Phil, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy
andOprah. Entertainment Tonight
has been our news lead-in for 15 years," Opperman brags.

But, Phipps notes, WLIO's impressive roster leaves Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld
and Friends
for his stations.