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A well-kept secret

Indianapolis, say local TV executives, is a market coming into its own. After underperforming for years, it now ranks No. 25 in both population and revenue.

"It's a consistent market," says Richard Pegram, GM at NBC affiliate and top-rated WTHR. "Financial advertising has been active; health care is poised for enormous growth. Internet advertising will come back, although we didn't have as far to fall." The market's drop in 2001 from 2000 was about 8%, well under that of other large markets. Market-wide ad revenues will likely be close to $200 million again by next year.

"Indianapolis is America's best-kept secret," says an enthusiastic Scott Blumenthal, GM at CBS affiliate WISH-TV. "It's a wonderfully progressive city." The station boasts among its assets the nation's senior news director: Next year, Jane Pauley mentor Lee Giles will mark 35 years in the job (40 total at the station).

WRTV GM Don Lundy concurs: "It's got good people, and it's a lot more of a big city than people realize—with good restaurants, good entertainment and great museums." It's a city that is upgrading its image also to make itself a destination for visitors. "The city is embarking on a huge, new advertising campaign," says Pegram, "to try to promote our local attractions."

Despite losing several corporate home offices via local-company acquisitions, Blumenthal says, "it's a growth market. Home Depot just entered with multiple stores. That's always a good sign."

The TV scene will change soon with a new duopoly. Tribune, which owns Fox affiliate WXIN, recently purchased WB affil WTTV from Sinclair. WXIN is among the nation's stronger-performing Fox affils, and the addition of the WB station in a market that tends to favor those younger demographics is likely to make Tribune more of a player there, local executives say.