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Vets' Return Aids Market

The last two weeks have been busy, exciting ones in Norfolk, Va., Naval Station. Norfolk is the world's largest naval installation, with five battle groups (each comprising close to 10,000 sailors). After six months away, the sailors have started returning. The USS Harry S. Truman docked May 23; the Theodore Roosevelt was scheduled to arrive on May 29.

Obviously cause for celebration by the sailors and their families, it's also good news for the television stations in this market, which includes Portsmouth and Newport News.

These almost 20,000 troops "have had six months at sea and nowhere to spend their pay. They've been on the ship the entire time, explains Ed Munson Jr., president/general manager of NBC affiliate WAVY-TV and Fox affiliate WVBT(TV). "So the car dealers welcome them home, as do restaurants and retailers. They're also coming back with hazardous-duty pay, so that will be a real shot to the economy here. And we've seen a nice bump in the advertising activity."

Ad sales, he adds, are "pacing very strong for the third and fourth quarters. We think the market has kind of hit the end of the trough."

Mario Hewitt, general manager of ABC affiliate WVEC-TV concurs: "The market per se is slightly better than last year, maybe flat to 2% up."

Cox Cable is the dominant MSO, with about "440,000 homes of the 660,000 in the market," Hewitt says.

WAVY-TV has a partnership with Tribune's The Daily Press. "We do joint stories; we have a bureau in their newsroom," Munson says. The almost-10-year-old partnership is strictly news: "There's no ad component."

WVEC-TV is in a seven-year relationship with the area's other daily newspaper, The Virginian Pilot
and Cox Cable. "We run a 24-hour news cable channel called LNC, Local News on Cable," says Hewitt. WVEC-TV produces content, and a separate sales staff sells the cable news product. The station shares stories with the newspaper and produces its 10 p.m. newscast from the paper's newsroom