Elections and Oprah animate a crowded field
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/8/2006 8:00:00 PM
A dramatic political season in California—propelled by a governor's race and divisive ballot initiatives—is translating into big bucks and heavy news coverage for TV stations in San Diego, the state's third-largest TV market.
Stations expect Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign, a local Congressional race, and the issue money tied to proposed taxes on energy and tobacco to drive ad spending north of $30 million.
Viewers in Nielsen's No. 26 market can turn to a bevy of news outlets for election coverage. Six English-language and four Spanish-language stations program local news, a larger menu than in similarly sized markets. In addition, McGraw-Hill's ABC affiliate KGTV operates a local cable news channel, NewsChannel 15, with local Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications systems.
NBC Universal-owned KNSD is the leader in late news and early mornings, but evening news is up for grabs. The field was blown open last May when Midwest Television's CBS affiliate KFMB poached The Oprah Winfrey Show from KGTV, where it had aired for 20 years, to replace its 4 p.m. news hour.
As in most markets, Oprah wins its time slot in San Diego and provides a generous lead-in for local newscasts. Last May, when Oprah was still on KGTV at 4 p.m., the station ranked No. 1 in early-evening local news. By July, after losing the show to KFMB, it saw ratings for its 5 p.m. news plummet about 50%, to a 1.9 rating. The CBS affiliate, meanwhile, leveraged its new syndicated jewel to move its 5 p.m. newscast from third place in May to the top spot in July.
Now KFMB's rivals are experimenting with counter-programming Oprah. Initially, KGTV replaced the talk show with a lighter local infotainment show, 10-4 San Diego. But after logging modest (average 0.7) July ratings, KGTV replaced it with a more traditional newscast in August.
KNSD is experimenting with a new late-afternoon news to pick up viewers from KFMB. The changes in the market, says General Manager Phyllis Schwartz, “provide such a big opportunity for us, we decided to do something different.”
Last spring, the station relaunched its 4:30 newscast as a faster-paced roundup, with anchors moving around the newsroom and interviewing newsmakers in-studio.
Other affiliates are expanding their news offerings. Last month, Televisa-owned Fox affiliate XETV began broadcasting morning news at 5 a.m. and will expand to 7-9 a.m. weekend news in January.
Last year, Tribune Broadcasting's CW affiliate KSWB debuted a 10 p.m. news produced by KNSD. The broadcast competes with XETV's strong 10 p.m. news and a solid show on independent KUSI, which offers 6½ hours of local news per day. KSWB also simulcasts morning news (with local-news updates) from its Los Angeles sister station, KTLA.
On the Spanish-language side, Univision affiliate KBNT and Telemundo outlet XHAS broadcast local news. New NBC-owned independent Mi San Diego (KBOP) carries a 7 p.m. news and reruns news from L.A. sister station KWHY. McGraw-Hill's Azteca America affiliate KZSD offers news updates and plans to air full local newscasts eventually.
San Diego stations took in $288.8 million in gross revenue in 2005, according to BIA Financial. In recent years, the market has been strong and has experienced robust population growth, driving it to No. 18 in total TV revenue, per BIA. While automotive spending is down, telecommunications and entertainment are up, station managers say.
But the big story this year is Election Day. Says KSWB General Manager Bob Ramsey, “The market is being completely driven by political.”
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