Market Eye: CBS 'Boots' UpIn Tiny Texas Market

Victoria setup no secret—Big 4 affils and Spanish-language channels under one roof

Why This Matters

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