Why Nashville Rocks

Country music may be Nashville's best-known product, but this isn't a one-note town. The country's 30th-largest TV market and Tennessee's state capital enjoys a healthy local economy and growing national profile. The NFL and NHL have added franchises there, and unlike in many Northeast and Midwestern cities, Nashville's population is rising. “This is a citified place where people want to live,” says Debbie Turner, president and GM of Landmark Broadcasting's CBS affiliate WTVF.

On the station front, WTVF and Meredith Broadcasting's NBC affiliate WSMV are locked in a heated local-news battle. In the recent November sweeps, WSMV prevailed at 5 and 6 p.m., while WTVF won late news. Strong lead-in programming helps both stations maintain their dominance. In prime, the advantage shifts to WTVF. CBS' parade of hit shows makes the station's 10 p.m. newscast a winner. Sinclair Broadcasting operates the market's only duopoly: Fox station WZTV and UPN affiliate WUXP. Lambert Broadcasting runs The WB station WNAB.

In the afternoon, WSMV ramps up with Dr. Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show. As a result, “40% of the rating points in this market are watching WSMV from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” says VP and GM Steve Ramsey. One big reason for Oprah's popularity: Winfrey is a homegrown success. She spent her teenage years in Nashville and attended Tennessee State University, where she won local beauty pageants in her freshman year. Her first broadcast job was at a local radio station. Those roots help ratings. Oprah averaged a 10.3 rating/22 share on WSMV in November; that's double what the 4 p.m. newscasts on WTVF and ABC affiliate WKRN earned.

The ad market is strong, despite Tennessee's missing out on big election-year monies. Ad spending is up about 10% this year, according to station execs. Like most markets, automotive continues to power ad sales; the furniture, grocery and health-care categories are also strong.

Local broadcasters will pull in an estimated $151.9 million in TV revenues in 2004, up 8.5% from last year, according to BIA. But Nashville's TV revenue doesn't live up to its market size. Though ranked 30th among all 210 TV markets, Nashville is 38th in revenue. According to station management, boosting national spot ads and keeping rates strong could help erase the gap.

Comcast Cable is Nashville's dominant cable operator; Comcast's regional ad sales operation, Comcast Spotlight, offers advertisers options to buy time in the area and across the mid South. “This is a strong and growing market and a great place to live,” says Ramsey, adding, “Nashville viewers love their television.”