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A sprawling, confusing market

The Lincoln-Hastings-Kearney, Neb.—throw in Grand Island, too—market is a large one, and no single TV signal has yet run its entire 200-mile length. Even the combined signals of Gray Television's market leader and CBS-affiliated KOLN(TV) and satellite KGIN(TV)—around whose signals Nielsen drew the market, local executives say—can't quite reach all of it.

"This is a very confusing market," says Steve Morris, GM of Pappas Telecasting's ABC affiliate KHGI-TV and of Mitts Telecasting's LMA'd Fox affils KSNB-TV and KTVG(TV). "For the first couple of months I was here, I needed a teleprompter to keep things straight."

Per local execs, the 51-county market breaks down into two main areas: Lincoln, and the Tri-Cities of Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island. Morris says that, since stations generally can't reach the whole market, they order special reports from Nielsen showing that they have greater strength in their coverage areas than in the market overall. Add the problem of signals bleeding into some coverages from other markets, like Omaha.

Though per capita income is relatively high at $17,653, the overall state economy has been suffering from a drought afflicting its agricultural community. State capital Lincoln has healthy insurance and financial businesses; both areas have thriving University of Nebraska campuses. Advertising is typical: automotive, fast food, etc.

While local execs expect an improved future, the market remains an underperformer. The No. 102 DMA, it drops more than 30 places when ranked according to revenue. Overall, the market took in $21.2 million last year, according to BIA estimates—down a moderate 9% from its record $23.3 million in 2000. Citing its considerable population growth in the past decade, Morris says, "Ultimately, I see this as a $40 million market."