Though known as the nation’s insurance capital, Hartford, Conn., has an economy that supports other institutions, from Foxwoods Resort Casino to University of Connecticut and Yale University. On the front end of the recovery, the Hartford & New Haven market, which runs the socioeconomic gamut, is in better shape than other pockets of the country. Political dollars are already starting to flow from candidates gunning for Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat in advance of an August primary. The governor’s race is also wide open.
The close proximity to New York and Boston makes for a competitive news market. But it’s also a complex one, signified by the ampersand Nielsen uses in the name of the DMA. It is the largest of three Nielsen “dual” markets, meaning Nielsen produces three sets of ratings: Hartford and New Haven individually and also a combination. The rollout of local people meters has been on hold for more than a year.
Taking advantage of the dual-market definition, WTNH, LIN Media’s ABC affiliate, is the leading New Haven news outlet in all demos and dayparts, while WFSB, Meredith’s CBS affiliate, is the longtime leader of the combined market. Since February, WTNH has been making over its brand, concentrating more on community-focused news. The station has partnered with the New Haven Register and New London Day, providing online weather for both. LIN Media also owns MyNetworkTV affiliate WCTX.
The Olympics in February gave WVIT, NBC Universal’s owned-and-operated station, a leg up in the ratings, tying WFSB in adults 25-54 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sans Olympics, WVIT and WTNH are neck and neck for No. 2 in the ratings behind WFSB.
WFSB is already making changes to prepare for the exit of Oprah at 4 p.m. In late March, the station moved its local Better Connecticut program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to build a local franchise in the afternoon.
As it climbs out of bankruptcy, Tribune has applied to the FCC to keep its waiver to own both a TV duopoly (Fox affiliate WTIC and CW affiliate WTXX) and The Hartford Courant, the largest paper in the market. In March 2009, the company set plans to combine operations; the TV station WTIC moved to new studios in the paper’s newsroom at year’s end. WTIC has since introduced a morning newscast and an 11 p.m. newscast.
Both the Courant and Journal Register-owned The New Haven Register have struggled of late. The Courant’s circulation dropped to 155,540, according to the Audit Bureau of Circ. To save costs, 60 were cut from the newsroom, and the size of the paper was cut by 25 percent. In July, the court approved Journal’s reorganization plan, reducing about $420 million of $692 million in debt. The Register has also had to save costs through layoffs and cutting some sections of the paper, though its circ rose 2 percent to 75,625, per ABC.
The Hartford-New Britain-Middletown radio market is much smaller than the TV market and doesn’t include New Haven, Litchfield or New London and Windham. To further complicate the ratings picture, there is a lot of spill-in viewing and listening from New York and Boston outlets, including CBS Radio’s New York sports station WFAN-AM and Entercom’s Boston sports station WEEI-FM.
At the end of the year, the market will make the transition to Arbitron’s portable people meters. Of CBS Radio’s four local outlets, three dominate the ratings: adult contemporary WRCH-FM, news/talk WTIC-AM and top 40 WZMX-FM. Hot adult contemporary WTIC-FM is No. 5. Clear Channel, the second largest radio owner in the market, breaks up CBS Radio’s streak with Country WWYZ-FM.