Birmingham is the largest city in the Yellowhammer state. But the TV market, covering 21 counties from the Georgia state line to Tennessee, is even larger, including the nearby cities of Anniston to the northeast and Tuscaloosa to the southwest.
Though both Anniston and Tuscaloosa populations are dwarfed by Birmingham, Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama and the Crimson Tide football team, one of the best known college teams in the nation, and a significant ratings producer for WBMA, Allbritton’s ABC affiliate in the market.
The radio market is much smaller than the TV market but stands out as one of the few where three of four Talk stations, plus WJOX-FM, Citadel Media’s top 10-ranked Sports station and ESPN Radio affiliate, are on the FM band—part of a trend taking hold in radio as more spoken-word radio formats seek to draw a younger audience by migrating to the FM band.
The third FM Talk station came on board in February when Citadel dumped its Adult Alternative format on WWMM-FM and changed the call letters to WAPI-FM to simulcast WAPI-AM’s “Alabama’s Big Talker.” The move raised competition among the market’s Talk stations, led by ratings leader Clear Channel’s WERC-FM and Crawford Broadcasting’s WYDE-FM, known as “The Source,” which brought back Nascar coverage in the market.
In ratings and reach, Cox Radio’s seven stations dominate the rankers drawing 50 percent of all weekly radio listeners in the metro. Three of the stations hold the top three spots in the ratings. WBHK-FM, the company’s Urban Adult Contemporary station, is No. 1, more than four share points ahead of Rhythmic Top 40 WBHJ-FM. Country WZZK-FM, the flagship for the syndicated The Rick and Bubba Show, is No. 3.
Sports fans in the market bemoaned the exit of the Atlanta Braves on the radio dial after Cox’s WENN-AM, an Urban Adult Contemporary station, decided not to renew the contract. The team shopped around a radio deal throughout the metro but didn’t get any takers.
Both radio and TV stations enjoyed a big boost from political advertising earlier in the year when seven candidates were running in the primary for governor, followed by a runoff among GOP candidates in mid-July. Though there is a lull now, activity is expected to pick up as September nears.
WBRC, Raycom Media’s Fox affiliate, is the longtime news leader in Adults 25-54 in all day parts and from sign on to sign off—making it the top-rated Fox affiliate in the country. The station broadcasts 49.5 hours of news per week, more than any other station, recently adding a half hour at 4:30 a.m. For coverage of big news stories, such as the Gulf oil disaster or sports, WBRC is able to leverage resources from four other Raycom-owned stations in the state, in Huntsville, Dothan and Montgomery.
Airing prime time an hour earlier than the other network affiliates, WBRC’s late news runs 9 to 10:30 p.m. Though the 9 p.m. half hour beats all other late newscasts, WBRC is No. 2 at 10 p.m. to WBMA, Allbritton’s ABC affiliate. WIAT, New Vision’s CBS affiliate, is No. 3, edging out by tenths of a rating point WVTM, Media General’s NBC affiliate. WBMA is also the clear No. 2 in early news, followed by WVTM and WIAT. In early morning, WVTM is No. 2, followed by WBMA and WIAT.
The Birmingham News, owned by Newhouses’ Advance Publications, is the largest paper in the state. Advance also owns The Huntsville Times and the Press-Register in Mobile, assets that have come in handy to help offset the News’ 14 percent drop in circulation over the past year—higher than the national average—from 132,417 to 113,810. In addition to offering buyouts, the paper has consolidated many backroom functions with the Press-Register and shares resources with other Advance papers in the state.
Two other papers cover the market: The Tuscaloosa News, part of The New York Times Regional Media Group, and The Anniston Star, owned by Consolidated Publishing Co.
Baton Rouge, La.-based Lamar Advertising is the dominant outdoor provider in the market, offering several formats, including digital billboards. CBS Outdoor also offers poster inventory.
TV DMA Rank: 40
Population 2-plus: 1,764,377
TV Households: 742,140
TV Stations (Net/Ind/Multicast/Public): 6/14/0/1
Wired Cable Households: 379,300
Radio Metro Rank: 57
Population 12-plus: 891,000
Radio Stations (rated): 23
Newspapers (Daily/Weekly): 7/10