Local TV

Market Eye: CBS 'Boots' Up In Tiny Texas Market

Victoria setup no secret—Big 4 affils and Spanish-language channels under one roof 9/12/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working In Victoria

As anyone who has read or seen Friday Night Lights can attest, high school football is more than just a sport in Texas. KAVU capitalizes on its popularity with Friday Football Fever, which runs during the fall season. The station squeezes its 10 p.m. Friday news into the first 10 minutes, then gives FFF the remaining 20, which features a scoreboard detailing all the action and interviews with local high school stars. Don Brubaker hosts.

FFF benefits from a mammoth lead in; KAVU had a 19 household rating/37 share in late news in the May sweeps. “A lot of big-market stations would kill for those kinds of numbers,” said Jeff Pryor, Victoria Television Group’s president and general manager.

Boosting tune-in is the fact that Victoria’s lone high school has been split into Victoria East and Victoria West, each with its own team. “High school football is a big deal in Texas,” said Pryor. —MM

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Several TV markets feature duopolies, and a handful have triopolies. But
few, if any—other than Victoria, Texas—feature all Big Four network
affiliates and two primary Spanish-language stations under one roof.

When CBS kicks off on KXTS in southern Texas on
Sept. 12, that will be the setup in Nielsen’s 204th-ranked
(out of 210) market. The six affiliated stations, and a
handful of subchannels, operate under Saga Communications’
Victoria Television Group banner. “I don’t like to
use the word monopoly,” said Jeff Pryor, president and
general manager of the megachannel Victoria operation.

Still, such a setup begs the question of whether it is
legal—and it is. Saga owns one full-power station in the
market in ABC affiliate KAVU, and four low-powers,
including NBC affiliate KMOL. Saga manages Surtsey
Productions’ Fox affiiate KVCT; the station airs Telemundo
and This TV on its .2 and .3 channels. “The
way the FCC sees it, you can own as many low-powers
as you can eat,” said Pryor. (An FCC spokesperson said
the arrangement in Victoria is indeed legit.)

Victoria did not have its own CBS affiliate, though
KENS San Antonio is piped in on Suddenlink’s cable
system. KXTS gave up its MyNetworkTV affiliation to
pick up CBS, which will air in HD. The network said
it is “proud” to set up shop in Victoria; the deal was
about a year in the works. “As the first CBS station to
serve the viewers of Victoria, it’s a welcome opportunity
to make CBS a vital part of the community and to
continue growing our successful relationship with Saga
Communications,” Diana Wilkin, president of CBS affiliate relations, said in a statement last month.

Saga has a history with CBS, through affiliates in
Pittsburg–Joplin (Kan.–Mo.) and Greenville (Miss.).

Sixty-two people work out of the Victoria Television
Group facility. KAVU is a giant, commanding nearly twothirds
of the market’s revenue last year, according to BIA/
Kelsey. The station wins every ratings race handily. Its 6
rating/21 share in total day households in the May sweeps
obliterated KMOL’s 1 rating/4 share. KAVU posted a 47
share at 6 p.m. and won 10 p.m. news with a 19/37.

The stations brought in an estimated $6.4 million last
year, according to BIA/Kelsey, with KAVU grabbing $4.2
million. The population in the DMA is 88,000; some
41% claim Hispanic origin.

There is a joint Website at crossroadstoday.com
and a joint news brand in Newscenter 25, which 14
people staff. Everyone fills multiple roles in covering
the sizeable 13-county market. “They act in every
capacity—anchors, producers,” said Henry Medrano,
the news director. “They’re all one-man bands.”
The new CBS affiliation is particularly sweet for
Medrano, who speaks fondly of the 18 years he spent
with CBS Newspath in San Antonio.

The Texas wildfires, which were about 100 miles
from Victoria at presstime, are a major news story.

KAVU has a full slate of newscasts and KVCT airs a 9
p.m. news. There are local news cut-ins during Today and
Good Morning America, and bilingual reporter Marithza
Calderon provides weather on Univision outlet KUNU.
“It’s ‘Your Hometown News,’ and that’s exactly what we
are,” said Pryor. “Weather, local news, local sports.”

The new CBS affiliate will have some sort of news
presence, if not full newscasts, but not right away. “CBS
is willing to let us get the affiliation established,” said
Pryor, “then get set up for news.”

Victoria is very much an entry-level market for talent;
Medrano concedes the pay is hardly princely. “It’s not
that great, is all I can tell you,” he conceded.

The newsroom staff works with two-year contracts,
after which talent typically moves up the DMA ladder.
“We train them, build them up, and boom—they’re
gone after two years,” lamented Medrano.

Pryor stokes competition in the sales department by
dividing the crew into three: one selling the Spanishlanguage
channels; one selling Fox, NBC and This TV; and
one focused on ABC, CBS and a local subchannel. The
newsroom isn’t the only place where people wear multiple
hats. “I do national sales, except for the Spanish-language
channels. I’m the general sales manager. I do programming
and I clean the men’s room on Thursdays, too,” said Pryor.

Victoria is about 25 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, near
the middle of a triangle mapped out by San Antonio, Corpus
Christi and Houston. City government and a local
hospital are main employers, and a new Caterpillar facility
will bring around 200 jobs. A recently discovered oil field
has turned Victoria into something of a boomtown.

Armadillo Fest returned to Victoria Sept. 3-4 after a
20-year hiatus. The event features live music, barbecue
and an armadillo race. A large part of the market is agricultural,
but Pryor disputes the “sleepy” tag one might
stick Victoria with. “Yes, it’s a small town,” he said. “But
there are lots of movers and shakers in the community.”

CBS’ newest market is true Texas: The Victoria
Convention & Visitors Bureau’s slogan is “Bring Your
Boots.” Said Pryor: “That kind of says it all.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

What’s Working In Victoria

As anyone who has read or seen Friday Night Lights can attest, high school football is more than just a sport in Texas. KAVU capitalizes on its popularity with Friday Football Fever, which runs during the fall season. The station squeezes its 10 p.m. Friday news into the first 10 minutes, then gives FFF the remaining 20, which features a scoreboard detailing all the action and interviews with local high school stars. Don Brubaker hosts.

FFF benefits from a mammoth lead in; KAVU had a 19 household rating/37 share in late news in the May sweeps. “A lot of big-market stations would kill for those kinds of numbers,” said Jeff Pryor, Victoria Television Group’s president and general manager.

Boosting tune-in is the fact that Victoria’s lone high school has been split into Victoria East and Victoria West, each with its own team. “High school football is a big deal in Texas,” said Pryor. —MM

March