Market Profile: Washington, D.C.

Not usually thought of as a hot bed of new technology, the nation’s capital is serving as the test bed for the newest TV technology, mobile digital television. Started in May, the ongoing
mobile DTV consumer showcase is demonstrating how TV stations can use the digital spectrum to broadcast directly to mobile.

All nine of the area’s TV stations are participating, broadcasting 23 channels of local news, select scripted TV programming, syndicated talk shows and even music. Not surprisingly, the most popular programming in the nation’s capital, as determined by a panel of 350 consumers, is news.

Of course, this being Washington, there is a political angle to consider. The Federal Communications Commission is looking to convince broadcasters to voluntarily give up some of their spectrum for wireless broadband, a policy that could cut into broadcasters’ ability to provide mobile DTV.

While broadcasters are cooperating in the mobile DTV showcase, they are fierce competitors in local news. WRC, NBCU’s owned-and-operated station, continues to be No. 1 in all news day parts by a comfortable margin and No. 1 among TV station Web sites. WRC offers the only local newscast at 4 p.m. and airs the network news a half-hour later (7 p.m.) than the other affiliate stations. In late October, WRC launched its digital sub channel, Washington Nonstop, a local lifestyle brand rolling out to other NBC O&Os.

Regulators willing, WRC could soon become controlled by Comcast (which operates the cable system in 66 percent of the market), a deal that concerns local media owner Allbritton Communications. Allbritton operates ABC affiliate WJLA, Politico.com and a local cable news channel that was recently rebranded TBD TV with the summer launch of TBD.com.

WJLA; WUSA, Gannett’s CBS affiliate; and WTTG, Fox Television’s O&O, battle it out for the No. 2 slot. WTTG is No. 2 in mornings (WTTG’s local news airs opposite the network morning programs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.); WJLA is No. 2 in early news. In August, WJLA moved up the start of its morning news to 4:30 a.m., following the other local TV stations that made the move in March, including WUSA, WTTG and WRC. Late news is the tightest race for No. 2 between WJLA and WUSA with WJLA ahead by one-tenth of a share point.

The Web is becoming a crowded news field. The Washington Post’s Web site still leads the pack with 1.5 million unique visitors, per comScore, and is facing a new challenge from Allbritton’s TBD.com.

On the print side, The Post’s circulation is down 6.4 percent to 545,345. Hanging on by a thread, The Washington Times is facing a circ decline of 17 percent to 67,148.

Allbritton’s Politico and Bloomberg are hiring scores of journalists for new paid ventures. Politico plans to launch Politico Pro, a paid service offering granular coverage of issues. Bloomberg is adding Bloomberg Government, combining policy research with a database of government info.

Talk and sports radio is as big as news. In October, Metro Radio launched WTNT-AM with a conservative line up of talk and news syndicated by Talk Radio Network, such as The Laura Ingraham Show and The Michael Savage Show. It’s the second talk station in town with a conservative bent, but it has a long way to go to catch up to Citadel Broadcasting’s WMAL-AM in the ratings. Both trail the more liberal news/talk station, WAMU-FM, owned by American University.

Outdoor inventory is a limited commodity in the DMA. The City Council capped the number of bulletins in the market to the five left standing, leaving most of the biggest signage occupying walls. Capitol Outdoor has a dominant presence with some high-profile locations at Nationals Stadium and 12 large format units in the market.

Vital Stats:

TV DMA Rank: 9
Population 2-plus: 6,073,327
TV Households: 2,389,710
TV Stations:
Net7  Ind9  Multicast3  Public6
Wired Cable Households: 1,634,209
Radio Metro Rank: 9
Population 6-plus: 4,279,900
Radio Stations (rated): 58
Newspapers (Daily/Weekly): 13/82

Charts:

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