Charlotte TV ad sales dip in 2013, but optimism up

Ad sales for Charlotte-area TV stations fell 12 percent last year, according to figures compiled by consulting firm BIA Kelsey. Despite the decline, industry experts and station executives agree that the Charlotte market remains strong.

Combined, sales in 2013 totaled $173.4 million, down from $196.2 million a year earlier. Cox Media Group’s ABC affiliate, WSOC, generated the highest revenue, with $52.7 million for the year. That accounted for 30 percent of the overall market.

“Charlotte is a growing market (for population),” WSOC GM Joe Pomilla told me Wednesday. “And being in a Top 25 market helps because a lot of national advertisers want to be in the top 25 markets.”

At 1.2 million homes, Charlotte ranks 25th among U.S. TV viewing areas in population. Advertisers and stations negotiate rates based on the size and buying power of TV audiences. The local TV market encompasses 22 counties, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Changes in ownership and affiliation in 2013 shook up the Charlotte TV world but, to date, have had minimal financial impact. That, analysts told me, will change gradually as the new affiliations take shape.

Last summer, News Corporation’s Fox Television became the first national network to buy its own affiliate in Charlotte. Typically, major networks maintain owned-and-operated stations (those controlled by the parent network) in the largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, etc.).

Fox paid $18 million for then-CW affiliate WJZY and sister station WMYT in January 2013. In July, WJZY became a Fox affiliate, replacing Bahakel Communications’ WCCB, which lost Fox and moved to an affiliation with the less-popular CW.

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