Battlefield Des Moines
KCCI, WHO locked in news race
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/27/2005 7:00:00 PM
The nation’s 73rd-largest TV market is more than cornfields and state fairs. “Des Moines is a vibrant market,” says Paul Fredericksen, president/GM of Hearst-Argyle’s CBS affiliate KCCI. In Iowa’s capital, construction is booming, including a new revitalized downtown arena, the new Jordan Creek mega-mall and a science center. “We go against the perception that Iowa is old and stodgy,” says Doug Sawyer, promotions manager for Citadel Communications’ ABC affiliate WOI.
As Des Moines thrives, local broadcasters are filling their coffers. They took in $62.3 million in gross revenue last year, up from $57.7 million in 2003, according to BIA Financial. Automotive, retail and financial are among the largest ad categories.
In news, KCCI is the dominant player, winning most newscasts for the past decade, including last November, when the CBS station claimed top marks at noon and 5, 6 and 10 p.m. (As a diary market, Des Moines has to wait until late March to get Nielsen data from February sweeps.)
But the faces at KCCI are changing. Evening co-anchor Jeanette Trompeter departed after February sweeps for CBS O&O WCCO Minneapolis, leaving co-anchor Kevin Cooney. Weekend anchor Erin Kiernan was a candidate, but she will join WHO after May. “We think the changes will create viewer sampling,” says WHO President/GM Jim Boyer.
Poaching Kiernan is one of WHO’s tactics to catch up with KCCI. In the past two years, WHO shifted its focus to harder news and investigations. Now it is within striking distance in late news. In November, KCCI posted an average 20 rating/39 share at 10 p.m., compared with WHO’s 13/25. WOI was a distant third, with 1/2. KDSM, the Sinclair-owned Fox station, airs a 9 p.m. newscast produced by sister station KGAN Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that earned 2/4.
Early morning news is also heated. KCCI and WHO, The New York Times Co.’s NBC affiliate, have been trading the top morning spot since KCCI launched its show three years ago. “The morning daypart is in its infancy but growing rapidly,” Fredericksen says.
To set up local news, broadcasters are making various syndication maneuvers. WOI is buying Martha Stewart’s new show for fall. KCCI recently replaced Montel Williams with Dr. Phil at 3 p.m. as the lead-in to Oprah and early evening news. The move paid off. In November, Dr. Phil nearly tripled Montel’s ratings, up to 7/36 from 2/11 the year before. Sports programming is another popular genre with Des Moines viewers, particularly high school and college sports. WOI produces the only weekly high school sports program in town: Friday Night Blitz.
Optimistic about the future, Fredericksen notes the new mall has ignited more retail ad spending. “It is one more example of our brisk growth.”
|*Index is a measurement of consumer likelihood. An index of 100 indicates that the market is on par with the average of the 75 local markets.
Source: Scarborough Release 1 2004 75 Markets Report (Feb. 03- March 04)
|Who||Share of population||Index*|
|Age 18 - 34||30%||98|
|Age 18 - 49||60%||97|
|Age 25 - 54||54%||93|
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