Where Duopolies Abound
Consolidation makes for intense competition
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/13/2005 7:00:00 PM
While most markets boast a duopoly or two, Kansas City has three—a rarity under the FCC’s ownership limits. And the three dramatically alter the market’s programming and ad-sales landscape.
Scripps owns NBC affiliate KSHB and independent KMCI. Hearst-Argyle, which owns ABC outlet KMBC, is operating UPN station KCWE while awaiting FCC approval to purchase it. In September, Meredith Broadcasting, owner of CBS affiliate KCTV, snagged the third duopoly by obtaining a “failing-station” waiver. The FCC granted Meredith permission to buy WB affiliate KSMO because it was underperforming in ratings and revenue; the FCC believed that new ownership could revive the station.
In each duopoly, the stations share backoffice operations and some advertising functions, often selling packages that hit different demographics on the two stations. Scripps fashioned KMCI as a young-male–skewing indie station, with local sports and acquired comedies such as The Simpsons. Hearst-Argyle’s KMBC shares syndicated fare with sister KCWE, and the UPN station replays The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil in prime time the same day they air on KMBC. “Many of the viewers are working women who don’t otherwise get to see the shows,” says General Manager Wayne Godsey.
KSMO is the only second station with local news. It recently debuted a 9 p.m. news, produced by KCTV, that competes with WDAF’s news. “We want to give folks another choice at 9 p.m.,” says KCTV/KSMO General Manager Kirk Black.
Local broadcasters took in $182.2 million in gross revenue in 2004, according to BIA Financial, up from $158.7 million in 2003. Political advertising was a huge driver, with more than $25 million flowing into the market. KMBC was top grosser, with $46.6 million last year, followed closely by WDAF at $42.5 million and KCTV at $36.7 million. Fox-owned WDAF is the only network affiliate without a sister station.
“There are four very competitive stations with very good news products, and we are all looking for our niche,” says KSHB/KMCI General Manager Jim Swinehart.
Every time slot is a slugfest. KCTV and KMBC are battling for first place in late news (see sidebar). WDAF, which broadcasts eight hours of local news a day, boasts the top-rated early-morning newscast, followed closely by KCTV. In early evening, KMBC is the leader, but its rivals are making strides. KSBH has expanded its investigative unit and added a helicopter. The station recently added Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which helped boost the ratings for its early-evening news. Next month, KCTV plans to extend its 4 p.m. newscast to an hour to strengthen its second-place position.
“Every day is different,” says Black, “and anyone can win.”
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