Steel City Success

With its trademark steel mills long gone, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself. Industrial sites have been replaced with high-tech office parks.

Local universities, led by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, provide a foundation. “Biomedical research and robotics are the future here,” says KDKA and WNPA VP/GM Chris Pike.

TV news in in the 22nd-largest market is dominated by KDKA, a top-rated CBS station. It’s one of the oldest local broadcasters in the country, and its parent, Viacom, has deep pockets. Viacom owns the market’s only duopoly: WNPA and KDKA. Although KDKA has retained the No. 1 spot for decades, its Big Three rivals, Hearst-owned ABC affiliate WTAE and Cox Broadcasting’s NBC station WPXI, have made inroads. That prompted Viacom to install Pike, a veteran of ABC affiliate WJLA Washington, as VP/GM last year.

“TV news is still appointment viewing in Pittsburgh,” says Pike. KDKA maintains a stranglehold on local news, winning early-evening and late news and churns out 7.5 hours of news per day. But its competitors score strong numbers, too. In November, KDKA’s late news averaged a 14.8 rating/25 share, while WPXI pulled a 10.5/18 and WTAE recorded a 7.9/13. In some big markets, WTAE’s third-place marks would qualify as top-rated. Says Pike, “When I was in D.C., lifestyles dictated viewing. In Pittsburgh, people plan their day around news time periods.”

KDKA also carries the Steelers football locally. To complement game coverage, sister station WPNA is developing Steelers-themed programs. In access, WTAE airs powerhouse The Oprah Winfrey Show and currently carries Dr. Phil. However, KDKA just snatched Phil rights away and will add the show to its lineup in fall 2006. KDKA also purchased the new Martha Stewart reality show from NBC Universal for next fall. Comcast and Adelphia are the major cable operators.

Auto is the largest ad category and leads a market poised for high-single-digit growth in 2005, according to station execs. Stations will take in $231 million in revenue this year, according to BIA Financial, up slightly from $229 million in 2004.

While downtown Pittsburgh is losing residents, the suburbs are booming. Bob Bee, director of sales, WTAE, says the growth is a boon to home retailers, and competition benefits broadcasters. US Airways, which uses Pittsburgh as a hub, is in jeopardy, but Southwest and Independence Air are moving in. “After years of being an anemic market,” says Bee, “things are finally getting going.”