Movers and Shockers
Wichita stations gear up for football
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/5/2008 8:00:00 PM
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High school football is heating up in Kansas, and stations are hustling to capture the gridiron goings-on. KSNW has a new Web partnership with the daily Wichita Eagle to share high school and college sports content, and KWCH's CatchitKansas.com site, featuring exhaustive school-sports reportage and a social networking platform, recently kicked off its sophomore season.
“It's quickly become the premier site for high school sports in the state,” says KWCH/KSCW President/General Manager Joan Barrett. “People recognize it as the place to go.”
It may not all be fun and games in the Wichita-Hutchinson market, but general managers here say the local economy is strong. They use words like “oasis” and “bubble” to describe the No. 69 DMA's ability to hold back negative economic forces.
Aviation and oil are major industries, and Wichita State, home of the Shockers sports teams, is a big source of local pride. “Local business has been great,” says KSNW President/General Manager Al Buch. “National business is the same as everywhere else.”
The real estate market remains pretty robust, thanks to a prevailing sense of fiscal responsibility. “Home ownership is conservative when it comes to borrowing and lending,” says KSAS VP/General Manager Jeff McCausland. “I don't think people here are as risky about borrowing money.”
Wichita television brought in $53.9 million last year, according to BIA Financial. Schurz's CBS outlet KWCH led with an estimated $17.7 million, ahead of the New Vision-owned NBC affiliate KSNW ($13.1 million), Gray's ABC affiliate KAKE ($12.1 million) and Newport Television's Fox outlet KSAS ($7 million). Schurz owns CW outlet KSCW, and Mercury Broadcasting has MyNetworkTV station KMTW. Cox is the major cable operator.
Ownership has changed dramatically in the last few years. Schurz bought KWCH from Media General two years ago and KSCW from Banks Broadcasting last year. New Vision bought KSNW from Montecito Broadcast Group last November, and KSAS was part of the Clear Channel batch taken over by Newport last spring. McCausland says the switch has been good for the station. “It's very nice to be part of a company that's focused just on television,” he says.
KWCH had a big May book, winning evening and late news in households, along with prime. Stations see digital media as the key battleground. Barrett says CatchitKansas.com's traffic has been running on par with that at KWCH.com, which does about a million page views a month. The weekly Catch It Kansas Show debuted on the CW station in September.
KSNW has VarsityKansas.com, with local sports stats, blogs and video. KSAS has had success with Inergize Digital Media's “Seek It Local,” which pairs a directory service with mapping technology to give users an interactive alternative to the Yellow Pages.
KAKE, which won morning news in May, has been growing its “KAKE On Your Cell” application, and new president Jason Effinger is overhauling the station philosophy. “KAKE is no longer a television station,” he says. “We're a media company.”
Managers say Wichita is just the right size: big enough to be a strong news market, but not so big as to lose its familial charm. “It's a market where the local is really local,” Effinger says. “Some great stories don't get told in the larger markets, but Wichita is an enjoyable size.”
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