|MEDIAWEEK TOP 50 MARKET PROFILES*|
The last five years have shown a steady economic improvement for Providence. Though the long-standing textile and fishing industries have waned, tourism, healthcare and high-tech are blooming, with the help of nearby university research centers. The socioeconomic status of residents is balanced, with the more blue-collar constituents of the hospitality and service industries mixed with upscale and highly educated physicians and professors.
For Providence, the No. 49 market with 573,000 TV households, its close proximity to Boston can be a problem due to signal spillover. Boston spillover primarily impacts Bristol County, the single Massachusetts county in the DMA.
AT&T Broadband is the cable operator for Massachusetts, and it carries Boston stations, said Lisa Churchville, gm of NBC O&O WJAR-TV. Thus, Providence TV competes with Boston over-air and on cable for Bristol's 197,000 households, 34 percent of the Providence DMA.
Rhode Islanders with cable subscribe through Cox Communications. So far, UPN affiliate WLWC-TV has accommodated the MSO's dual broadcasts of WLWC and UPN affiliate WSBK-TV in Boston, due in part to the popularity of WSBK's 7 p.m. local news. (Viacom owns both stations and Boston�based CBS affiliate WBZ-TV.)
However, WLWC gm Ed Goldman said that the stations are slowly coming to "respect each other's duplicity, and taking the duplicate broadcasts off the air." Cox will block its broadcast on WSBK in Providence from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a graphic directing the viewer to WLWC.
Goldman returned the favor, appearing in a TV spot explaining to residents why Cox would be dropping carriage of CBS' WBZ in Boston. WPRI-TV, Providence's CBS affiliate, "is entitled to the Providence market," he explained.
WJAR is by far the strongest outlet in Providence. The station garnered $35.6 million in 2000 and a 17 audience share in the May sweeps, far succeeding second-place CBS affiliate WPRI-TV, which earned $18.7 million and a 12 share, according to BIA Research. WJAR's 11 p.m. news program made a 14.1/28 against WPRI's 5.8/12, according to November Nielsen figures.
In December, New York station WNBC-TV began handling master control and traffic operations for WJAR and five other stations, as part of NBC Network's hub project.
WLNE, the ABC affiliate, began simulcasting its 6 p.m. local newscast in Spanish on the SAP channel, thanks to a bilingual journalist on staff. The station began providing the service in mid-October, following Census 2000 figures that revealed a tremendous growth in the number of Hispanic residents. "We're the first to offer the service," said gm Kingsley Kelley. Since ABC Network's national broadcast is also translated, WLNE provides a full hour of local and national news in Spanish.
WLNE works with Cox Communications, the area cable operator, on the Rhode Island News Channel. Carried on Cox's basic cable tier, the channel repeats each of WLNE's four daily newscasts until the next news program. (Commercials are not repeated, however.)
The extra channel allows programming flexibility. "When there are sporting events on ABC on the weekends, we can still provide local news [on RINC]," said Kelley. "It gives us more opportunities for special coverage and is an opportunity for us to do only Rhode Island local news, as opposed to reaching the Massachusetts market."
In other programming, WLNE has struck gold with the quirky local show Caught in Providence. Each week, the program airs 10 of 400 weekly cases at the Providence traffic court. For a half hour, viewers might spy someone they know among the residents charged with minor violations, which include speeding, parking and being "drunk and disorderly." With the show earning a 3.6/7, executives bumped it from Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. last fall, following Friends.
Viacom, which previously had a local marketing agreement to head operations and programming of WLWC-TV, purchased WLWC from its local license holder in early October. The master control, traffic and promotional services of the outlet joined siblings WSBK and WZB in the Viacom building in Boston. The sales department remains at the studio in Providence, to better serve local businesses.
Though primarily a UPN affiliate, WLWC broadcasts WB shows weekdays from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. "We get the best of both networks' prime time," explained WLWC's Goldman.
Arbitron has added Warwick and Pawtucket to the Providence radio market and considers New Bedford and Fall River a separate market. Both are dominated by Citadel. In the Providence market, ranked No. 35, Citadel's six outlets earned 37.4 percent of market revenue last year, according to BIA Research. The stations also attracted 36.4 percent of audience share.
WWLI-FM is tops in market billings and share, having earned $7.1 million and a 7.3 share among listeners 12 and older. Another outlet of note is top CHR station WPRO-FM, which earned $6.5 million and a 7.1 share. The leading News/Talk station, WPRO-AM, is Citadel�owned; it earned $3.5 million and 4.9.
Clear Channel gives Citadel strong competition, even though it owns only four stations. Together they represent 36.4 percent of total ad revenue in the market and 34.2 percent of listeners. WHJY-FM and WSNE-FM made solid revenues of $7 million and $6.5 million, respectively. Oldies format WWBB is in third place among listeners, with a 6.3.
In New Bedford, ranked No. 168, Citadel has two more stations with considerable market presence. CHR format WFHN-FM earned $2.8 million last year. WFHN and News/Talker WBSM-AM are both popular with listeners, earning 6.5 and 7 AQH shares, respectively, last spring, according to Arbitron.
Cable penetration is exceptionally strong in the metro area: 82 percent, according to Scarborough Research, nine percentage points above average. The accessibility of cable in the market makes ADS subscriptions a rarity.
Cox Communications, and AT&T Broadband are the area operators. Cox serves 275,000 Rhode Island subscribers and AT&T carries 173,000 residents in Massachusetts. With the help of National Cable Communications, Cox and AT&T Broadband established the Providence Interconnect in September 2000. The single-operated-system covers the entire state of Rhode Island and Bristol County, reaching 96 percent of homes with cable access, or 448,100 households, according to interconnect gm John Russo.
In newspapers, Providence and New Bedford each have their own daily. For the Providence Journal, the Audit Bureau of Circulations' tallies through March 2001 cite a nearly flat weekday distribution of 160,610 and a Sunday circ decrease of 1.44 percent, to 229,271.
The Standard-Times of New Bedford saw a drop of 3.7 percent on weekdays, to 35,831, and 3.39 percent on Sundays, to 40,226, according to ABC figures calculated through Sept. 30.
Fall River, a sizable town near New Bedford, has its own daily, The Herald News (circ 23,209 weekdays, 25,283 Sundays) that began in the late 19th century. The Journal Register Co., which owns 22 other dailies throughout the Northeast, purchased The Herald News last year from Belo.
Lamar is the only out-of-home player in Providence, aside from a few scattered, privately owned faces, said sales manager Mike Murphy. In fact, Lamar is responsible for the entire state, as well as 12 faces in Worcester, Mass. The company offers businesses roughly 40 bulletins, 450 30-sheet posters and 630 transit shelters, Murphy said.
-- Aimee Deeken