Market Eye: Bliss on the BorderJuarez émigrés and military families mean giant growth in El Paso 1/16/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
There is growth, and then there is growth, El Paso style. El Paso, situated
in west Texas, along with tiny Jackson, Tenn., enjoyed the largest
increase in market rank in the most recent Nielsen lineup, leapfrogging
a half-dozen TV markets in going from No. 97 to No. 91. The El Paso DMA, which includes Las Cruces, N.M.,
went from 315,000 television homes in 2011 to
336,600 this year, thanks to both a major expansion of
a local military base and people fleeing drug-ravaged
Juarez, south of the border.
Local TV execs say El Paso has always punched above
its weight, thanks in part to the fact that it also broadcasts
to Juarez, but does not receive Nielsen credit for it. “I think
we always played bigger than No. 97,” Gary Sotir, general
manager at ComCorp of El Paso, owner of NBC affiliate
KTSM, says of the local area. “It’s a big news market, with
international, national and local stories. We attract a pretty
good level of reporter and anchor candidates.”
Perhaps an even more significant number for El Paso
is its revenue rank, as calculated by BIA/Kelsey. While it
is DMA No. 91, El Paso is No. 74 in revenue. Numerous
Juarez residents cross the border to shop in safe
and prosperous El Paso, say local TV executives, keeping
the local economy thriving.
Also thriving is KVIA. News-Press & Gazette owns
the ABC affiliate, which won all the major ratings races
in the November sweeps, including the late news contest
with an 8.6 household rating/18.6 share. Runnerup
at 10 p.m. was Entravision’s KINT, a powerful Univision
affiliate, which tallied a 7.9/17.1. El Paso is a
Nielsen diary market.
KVIA is rich in news offerings, including noon and
4 p.m. programs, and weekend morning newscasts as
well. Kevin Lovell, general manager at KVIA, credits the
backing of ownership for its eminence. “News-Press &
Gazette really believes in strong content,” Lovell says.
“They have always supplied us with the news resources
we need to be competitive.”
The parent company also gets some credit for what
Lovell describes as “next to no” turnover at the station.
“I haven’t hired a manager, or even a mid-level manager,
in years,” he says.
El Paso is a booming news market, with not only the
traditional Big Four offering newscasts, but the lively
Spanish-language KINT operation and an emerging Telemundo
outlet, KTDO, airing news too. (A whopping
79% of the market claims Hispanic origin, according
to BIA/Kelsey.) “There’s quite a bit of news for a market
this size,” says Lovell.
The number of newsrooms, however, decreased
when ComCorp owner KTSM agreed to manage Titan
Broadcast Group’s CBS outlet KDBC two years ago.
The stations are both housed at KTSM’s digs, sharing
a newsroom but keeping their news brands separate.
KDBC goes with “Local 4” and a hyperlocal focus.
KTSM’s “NewsChannel 9” is broader and makes consumer
advocacy a priority.
Cox Media Group owns Fox affiliate KFOX and ZGS
Communications owns the Telemundo outlet. Entravision
has a duopoly in KINT and TeleFutura station
KTFN, along with five radio stations in the market.
(Among other newscasts, KINT has a 5-6 a.m. morning
show that continues for another hour on KTFN.)
KVIA offers Azteca America and The CW on its digital
tier, while KTSM has Estrella TV on channel 9.2.
Time Warner Cable is the dominant subscription
television operator in El Paso, while Comcast is the big
pay-TV player in Las Cruces.
Locals say the economy has been buffered by a stable
housing market and the expansion of military base Fort
Bliss, which has doubled its population in recent years.
“We get the benefit of people moving in all the time,”
The well-documented drug violence south of the border
has been a factor in El Paso’s growth, too. Besides new
residents, scores of Juarez business owners have relocated
north to escape extortion, violence and other nefarious
drug gang activity. “It’s like a ghost town,” says David
Candelaria, VP/general manager of KINT-KTFN.
El Paso has also benefited from what’s known as
maquiladora, which sees major U.S. corporations establishing
manufacturing facilities, be it automotive,
electronics, etc., just below the border. The managers
reside on the U.S. side and contribute mightily to the
local economy. The concept has also established El Paso
as a distribution hub.
Stations are expanding their offerings. KINT is eyeing
weekend daytime news and a bigger presence in Las
Cruces. Last April, KTSM expanded its 6 p.m. news to
an hour. KVIA may try a similar tack with its 4 p.m.
news. “We always look at how to potentially expand
news for every window that makes sense,” says Lovell.
Lovell’s station is expected to wear the El Paso TV
ratings and revenue crowns for some time, but the
competition is robust. “All the companies in town play
hard and take the competition seriously,” says Sotir.
“We all push each other.”