Eyes on the Prize
KING still king, but Seattle rivals ramp up
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/7/2008 8:00:00 PM
That the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Award for large-market station excellence is sitting in the Seattle-Tacoma DMA isn't particularly shocking. That it's held by KOMO, not KING, may surprise those who don't follow the Seattle station race closely.
“We feel we've made tremendous headway, not only in the ratings, but in our product,” says KOMO VP/General Manager Jim Clayton, who singles out his “Problem Solvers” crew. “We're very proud of that.”
News quality runs high in the No. 14 DMA, as befits a well-educated, well-wired market. If you want a Murrow, you'll have to beat out the local competition to get it—KING has bagged numerous Murrows, Peabodys and Emmys, including the 2006 Murrow for Overall Excellence, and KIRO won the same back in 2000. KING President/General Manager Ray Heacox says KOMO's new title is a good motivator for the KING crew. “It's not because we think winning awards is what it's all about,” he says. “It's that you're recognized for doing quality work. We're very competitive and we want to win.”
Still, it's KING's title to lose. Belo's NBC affiliate took total day household ratings in May, and won morning, early evening and a tight late news race, too, with a 4.8 rating/13.9 share. “We've got a really established senior team,” says Heacox, who also oversees independent KONG and Northwest Cable News. “They've done such a good job for such a long time.”
The Seattle area is home to blue-chip corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Costco and Starbucks, all nestled around the scenic Cascade Mountains. The stations took in $323.2 million last year, says BIA Financial. KING led with $91.4 million, ahead of Fisher Communications' ABC outlet KOMO's $72.5 million and $64.2 million for Cox's CBS affiliate KIRO. Tribune owns Fox affiliate KCPQ and MyNetworkTV outlet KMYQ, and CBS holds CW affiliate KSTW.
Seattle officially launched Nielsen's Local People Meters (LPMs) in July, and the new metric is taking some getting used to. “It's sent the market into an upheaval,” says KSTW VP/Station Manager Steve Gahler. “There's a bit of a tug of war with traditional clients as to what the LPMs mean.”
Managers categorize the local economy as lukewarm. Having major corporations there keeps unemployment low, but things are hardly robust in the Pacific Northwest. Presidential candidates historically don't spend a lot of money in Washington State, though some torrid gubernatorial and Congressional races should put cash in station coffers.
Stations are eager to make their mark this new season. KCPQ/KMYQ VP/General Manager Pam Pearson added a 9 p.m. news on KMYQ in the spring and debuts syndicated fantasy program Legend of the Seeker this fall. She'll also continue to promote the growing 10 p.m. news on Fox. Gahler, who does not air news on KSTW, says it's time for the CW network to “find some legs” with its new lineup. “It has to come up with something that connects with the audience,” says Gahler, who hopes 90210 has the winning combo.
Station managers say the Emerald City crown is up for grabs. “When people think of Seattle, they think of KING—it's the 800-pound gorilla in the room, so to speak,” Pearson says. “We've made gains.”
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