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From the Anchor Desk
Friday, May 16, 2003
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Television markets based on bogus science


As we all hold our collective breaths to see what happens with the ACC and how that affects East Carolina, I thought I would shed some light on ECU’s television market.

Nielsen lists 210 designated market areas or DMA’s in the United States. New York is number one, while Glendive, Montana, is No. 210.

Greenville-Washington-New Bern is stuck right in the middle of the Nielsen list, at market number 103.

With that said, a closer look reveals that the real local television market and how it relates to East Carolina isn’t nearly as gloomy as portrayed in some uninformed quarters.

The Raleigh-Durham market is listed at 29th in the country. So if you consider East Carolina’s television market as a combination of the two, that would make the Pirates' market 21st, just behind Orlando, Fla.

Raleigh’s market includes 929,460 households, while Greenville’s market has 266,390 households. That grand total of 1,195,850 households would rank just below Orlando's 1,224,470.

Realistically, East Carolina can’t claim all of the Raleigh DMA. On the other hand, the Nielsen bean counters have inflated the Raleigh numbers by robbing the Greenville market of several key areas that are more logically identified as Down East outposts rather than extensions of the Triangle.

Wilson, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount and Tarboro were all part of the Greenville market at one time. However, those key areas are now included in the Raleigh survey.

The fact that Wayne, Wilson and Edgecombe counties somehow found their way into the Raleigh DMA instead of the Greenville-Washington-New Bern market has always been puzzling to me.

Tarboro is 23 miles from Greenville, and Edgecombe county borders Pitt county. But still, if you’re watching television in Edgecombe County, it counts for Raleigh and not for Greenville. That unfairly understates East Carolina's real-world market strength.

There are also several counties to the north that watch Greenville television, but that are counted in either the Raleigh or the Norfolk, Va., markets.

WNCT-TV has always had a strong following in Ahoskie, but those television viewers are a part of the Norfolk DMA. In fact, Chowan, Gates, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck Counties are all part of the Norfolk market, though many are hard-wired into the stations in the Greenville market via cable.

Add in Wilmington and the potential DMA numbers for our area expand even more.

It’s certainly not all about television markets. Virginia Tech’s market is Roanoke-Lynchburg, which is 67th. Florida’s Gators are a part of the Gainesville market, which is 162nd. Florida State calls Tallahassee home, which is the 107th market in the nation.

Of course, VPI is on the rise in the eyes of Nielsen households far from Blacksburg, and both Florida and Florida State have a statewide, if not a national following. In that same vein, though, ECU can claim significant interest from multitudes of viewers who are arbitrarily lumped into DMA's to the north, south and west of the Greenville-Washington-New Bern market.

In fact, the true measurement of East Carolina's market, if it is to be valid, has to be tied in to the strong regional identity the school has established in North Carolina from the I-95 corridor eastward.

Throw in the tantalizing but true tidbit that ECU is the closest Division I-A school to the Norfolk DMA and the numbers suddenly become a major eye-opener. That Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News market, which is home to significant numbers of ECU alumni, is No. 41 with 677,610 households.

Still, when you get right down to the realities of college football Saturdays, the Nielsen DMA's mean little in determining which games are most important to TV viewers.

For example, of the potential defectors from the Big East, many think that Boston College will get the nod over Virginia Tech with the ACC. Boston’s market is sixth in the nation while Tech’s is 67th. But honestly, which game would draw a bigger television audience and a bigger crowd, B.C. vs. N.C. State, or the Hokies vs. the Wolfpack?

Louisville has a DMA of 50. Syracuse has a DMA of 80.

The Greenville-Washington-New Bern DMA would move closer to the Syracuse number if, as common sense dictates, you add in many of the Eastern North Carolina counties that I noted above.

This entire realignment drama has everyone in college athletics on edge. East Carolina’s goal is to somehow become part of a BCS league when the dust settles.

If television markets are considered, here’s hoping the powers that be take a long look at how East Carolina's market should be defined and interpreted. ECU has a strong following in Raleigh and in other cities in the state. Will that be enough to convince those looking into DMA’s?

The landscape is changing, and those changes seem to be pouring in on a day to day basis.

Television is key, and a closer look at East Carolina may reveal some real positives in the Pirates' fight to get into a BCS conference!

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02/23/2007 01:26:32 AM


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