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TV stations capture local viewers online

Local TV stations can successfully compete on the Web, according to a new study that shows some network affiliates are attracting more online traffic than their leading media rivals, including newspapers.

    Local TV stations can successfully compete on the Web, according to a new study that showed some network affiliates have attracted more online traffic than their leading media rivals, including newspapers.

    Cities where TV Web sites placed first in the battle for viewers were Cincinnati; Denver; Des Moines, Iowa; and New Haven, Conn., Media Audit reported Thursday in a survey of some 345 local TV station Web sites.

    The survey comes as many online and offline media companies have been scaling back their Internet efforts to keep pace with the slowing Web-advertising market. Newspaper publishers including News Corp., The New York Times Co. and Knight-Ridder have reduced staff or closed online divisions. TV networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are bringing their online projects in closer contact with their TV productions.

    "Success or failure in the local markets won't be determined by what has been done in the past three or four years but by what is done in the next two or three years," Bob Jordan, co-chairman of International Demographics, said in a statement. International Demographics is a Houston-based research firm that produced the Media Audit study.

    The survey shows that local media are starting to take the Internet seriously. It found that within the local TV Web site market, there is a progression toward outsourcing site development, management and marketing. More than 150 affiliates are running their Web operations through Internet Broadcasting Systems and World Now.

    In addition, the more aggressive TV stations are promoting evening news on the Web and their sites on the programs. Some local network affiliates are also producing breaking news through Webcasts.

    In Denver, NBC affiliate KUSA beat two daily newspapers, six TV network affiliates and more than a dozen radio stations in attracting viewers to its site, according to the survey. Among the other successful TV Web sites are WRAL in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., which has attracted 19.4 percent of adults; WCPO in Cincinnati with 15.8 percent; and WTVF in Nashville, Tenn. with 12.8 percent.

    The survey, based on phone interviews, also said that neither ownership nor network affiliation play a crucial role in Web site marketing.

    "TV station owners see what's happening," Jordan said. "They still recognize that the Web is a new business and a new revenue stream with an undefined potential, and that's sufficient to get their attention."