Florida media rebounding after Wilma
Expect losses in advertising to be made up
November 2, 2005
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Wilma battered southeastern Florida, over a half million Floridians are still in the dark, but the lights are on, the presses roaring, and cameras rolling at most of the major media outlets in the hardest hit areas of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples.
As of yesterday, fewer than 5 percent of the state’s television and radio stations were still off the air, according to the Florida Association of Broadcasters, and association President Pat Roberts says that more than 90 percent of the state’s broadcasters had resumed regular programming.
We can all be proud that our stations stayed on the air almost continuously. We had a miraculous recovery, Roberts said.
Still, the Category 3 storm has taken a toll on one of the nation’s largest media markets. West Palm Beach’s public radio and television station WXEL was destroyed, and virtually all media outlets suffered revenue losses from advertising that didn’t run or was pulled because of the storm.
Hurricane Wilma may have been a Category 3 storm but to all the stations here the hurricane was a Category 5 to the bottom line, says Dave Boylan, vice president and general manager of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale’s WPLG Channel 10, an affiliate of ABC.
Combined, the area’s television and radio stations lost between $12 million and $15 million in revenues, estimates the FAB’s Roberts, and the area’s newspapers lost untold millions more.
Yet, as with Houston following Rita a few weeks back, advertising is expected to bounce back, and spending could actually exceed forecasts as advertisers who were knocked off the air up their spending for those missed days and new advertisers come in, such as home repair services, looking to reach homeowners whose properties were damaged.
My experience tells me that after hurricanes the economy thrives, says Robert Leider, vice president and general manager of Miami Fox affiliate WSVN. People are going to be putting on roofs and rebuilding and buying cars. This isn’t like New Orleans, where we will be out of business. Our advertisers will end up [buying more] in the fourth quarter.”
A number of stations suffered a double economic whammy from Wilma, choosing to run commercial free and at the same time incurring additional expenses from their stepped-up news coverage.
One station, WPLG, went six days commercial free. Says Boylan: We believe that a station’s branding comes from remarkable coverage at important times.
The Miami Herald published through the worst of the storm, with the exception of one day when a power outage knocked out its presses, forcing it to publish the day’s edition at a sister Knight Ridder paper. The newspaper is not saying how much advertising was lost as a result of Wilma.
Other papers, some well out of the storm’s path, also increased their coverage, including the St. Petersburg Times, more than 200 miles north and west of Miami. The Times has rotated reporters through the impacted areas since the storm hit Florida on Oct. 24, according to hurricane editor Tom Scherberger. In the past year, it has increased its hurricane team from about 12 to 18 reporters.
Wilma certainly has affected us from the standpoint of expenses, says Scherberger. When you add on the extra expense of hotel rooms and walkie-talkies, it adds up.”
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