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Talk about the weather

Stations in the diverse Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Dubuque-Iowa City, Iowa, market find that providing comprehensive weather information is one way to reach the largest audience.

"You want to try to appeal to as many people as possible," says Rick Lipps, general manager of NBC affiliate KWWL-TV. "Our home city is Waterloo, so we want to make sure we provide our residents with Waterloo news. But we don't want to turn off anybody else."

Since the market is largely agricultural, the weather is particularly important—and becomes vital during tornado season.

Even so, "you can't make everyone happy," Lipps readily concedes. "There may be a tornado in the northern part of the DMA, and it could be sunny in the southern part."

KWWL-TV has built a strong brand, which is helpful in today's tight market. Right now, the station is going after companies that don't traditionally advertise on TV, such as the local auto dealers, which tend to use classified ads.

Mark Culbertson, general manager of one of the area's start-up outlets, WB affiliate KWKB-TV, finds that the "disjointed market" makes it "extremely hard" to attract advertisers. Many "have two locations in Dubuque but nothing in Waterloo," he points out. "Or they have Waterloo and don't have Cedar Rapids," which means it can be tricky to convince them that it's worth while to spend money on viewers that might not be their target consumers.

Still, the market has plenty of upside.

Just two outlets, CBS affiliate KGAN-TV and KWWL-TV, belong to big station groups: Sinclair and Raycom, respectively. That makes it easier for a station to win such high-profile programming as the upcoming Will & Grace
and That '70s Show, which will air on the independent KWKB-TV in fall 2002.