Tropical Paradise

In Honolulu, a land of palm trees and pineapples, the Fox station dominates both news and prime time ratings. The No. 72 TV market is home to all of Hawaii's TV stations, with programming retransmitted to outlying islands.

KHON, the Emmis-owned Fox station, got a huge boost in May when viewers of American Idol
kept local teen Jasmine Trias in the running until the final two weeks. The show drew a phenomenal 50 rating, ranking it among Hawaii's most-watched shows ever, and boosting the station to the top of prime time.

"It helped us, but there is a lot more to the station," says General Manager Rick Blangiardi. KHON produces 27 hours of news each week and owns rights to most of the top-rated syndie shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil
and Wheel of Fortune.

Emmis also owns the market's No. 2 station, CBS affiliate KGMB. Raycom holds the market's other duopoly: NBC affiliate KHNL and The WB station KFVE. The market has no UPN affiliate, although both KHON and KGMB carry some UPN programs.

While living in Hawaii looks appealing, running a TV station there is a challenge. Ad revenue has been flat for more than a decade. Market revenue is expected to reach about $58 million in 2004, less than in 1994. Some 80% of ad dollars come from local accounts, an unusually high figure.

The good news is the personnel.

Most news directors came from mainland stations and implemented production values common in other markets but nonexistent in the laid-back tropics. "You see better graphics, pacing and story counts," says KGMB News Director Tauna Lange. "The market is growing up."

As for cable, Hawaii's mountainous terrain is tailor-made. Time Warner's Oceanic Division is the sole operator. Nearly all TV households subscribe. By contrast, satellite penetration is about 6%, the lowest of any market.

Heavily dependent on tourism, Hawaii suffered hits from the 1991 Gulf War, the 9/11 attacks and a down economy in Japan, a major source of tourist income. By contrast, the weather is superb, and the state's unemployment rate stood at 3% in May, the lowest in the nation. "This is a beautiful place with wonderful people," says Blangiardi. "There is something very real about the aloha spirit."