Young, vital and diverse

"Most markets have a rush hour," says Jack Hansen, general manager at KSFY-TV, extolling a virtue of his Sioux Falls, S.D., hometown. "Here, we have a rush minute."

"We've drawn a lot of people and a lot of businesses from neighboring states," notes Ed Hoffman, general manager at KTTW(TV). The businesses come in part for the absence of a corporate tax, he and Hansen say. The people like the lifestyle—even with wind chills that can reach 50 degrees below zero.

"It's a young, vital market," Hoffman says. The 2000 census shows a median age of 33. While many smaller markets have shrunk, the Sioux Falls-Mitchell DMA has grown, in both population and local economy. Per capita income is high, at $17,717.

KELO-TV is the giant in the market. According to BIA Financial numbers, the station brought in $12.5 million in 2001, more than a third higher than any other station in the market. And despite competition from the local CBS and NBC affiliates, the station dominates local news with enviable numbers.

Satellite stations are necessary to cover the 55,000-square-mile market. Sioux Falls is the only city in the market with a six-figure population; the next-largest city has less than 25,000. "We try to go into those towns," says Hansen, "with remote newscasts and advertising sales. We will sell Aberdeen only, or Pierre only, or Sioux Falls only. Or sometimes we sell the whole market."

Agribusiness supply is a big advertiser, just behind automotive. The two major local hospitals are also big advertisers, as are credit-card companies. "We've got every credit-card company here," Hansen says, noting, "The state has no usury law."

Local executives say the economy is quite diverse and, therefore, recession-proof. When other markets dropped in double-digit percentages in 2000-01, Sioux Falls-Mitchell dipped barely 5%, according to BIA Financial.