High Stakes on the Plains

Station shakeups change market landscape

Why This Matters

A Growth Market

A Growth Market

When its Fox affiliate in Omaha, Neb., begins to offer the new My Network TV on a secondary digital channel this fall, Pappas Telecasting will be broadcasting four networks from its three stations in the market. It’s just one of several affiliation and ownership changes shaking up the No. 75 market.

Pappas’ KPTM will carry the two Fox networks while its WB affiliate, KXVO, will become a CW station. (Azteca America affiliate KAZO is the company’s third station.)

Gray Television’s NBC affiliate WOWT, which has been multicasting the soon-to-be defunct UPN on a digital channel, will be left without a secondary affiliation.

Newcomer Journal Broadcasting closed on its purchase of Emmis Communications’ KMTV last December. Journal operates the CBS affiliate but won’t take full ownership until it sheds several local radio stations, in compliance with FCC ownership rules.

Journal has already made changes, launching an “Action News” format at KMTV, with higher story counts, more live reports, and faster-paced breaking news and weather. Journal is also leveraging its radio properties, putting KMTV weather and sports personalities on the radio, and cross-promoting during sweeps. “We’re able to serve the community with even more in-depth coverage,” says General Manager Steve Wexler.

KMTV, third in news, is pursuing strong news performers WOWT and Hearst- Argyle’s ABC affiliate, KETV. In the latest sweeps, KETV won early-morning and early-evening. WOWT held its lead at 10 p.m. in a tight race: It averaged a 13.6 rating/27 share in households; KETV and KMTV averaged a 12.5/25 and 6.7/13, respectively.

In the past year, KETV relaunched its early newscast with a two-anchor team, a live field reporter (the market’s only one, notes General Manager Joel Vilmenay), a dedicated traffic reporter and dispatches from Hearst-Argyle’s Washington bureau. In February, the station added Saturday- and Sunday-morning news broadcasts. “We’ve invested a lot in strengthening our position,” Vilmenay says.

WOWT is also extending its news brand on a local-news channel on cable. Jointly operated by WOWT and Cox Cable, News on 1 has a plum channel 1 spot on the cable system. The station shook up its late news a year ago, tapping veteran Tracy Madden to replace retiring 10 p.m. anchor Pat Persuad and giving ratings a jolt.

Pappas’ KPTM has a well rated 9 p.m. newscast, with a 3.2/5 in February, although the 10 p.m. news on its KXVO had a less than stellar debut, averaging 0.2/0.3 in its first sweeps. After a brief on-air tryout, the station hired former MTV VJ Brian McFayden, an Omaha native, to anchor a younger, faster-paced newscast.

Next: Dayton, Ohio