Market Eye: Family Style in Heartland DMA

Small station owners battle the big boys in three-state market of Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg

Family-owned stand-alone stations become rarer each year, yet two exist in Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg. Paxton Media has WPSD, which is aligned with NBC, while WSIL TV, Inc. holds ABC outlet WSIL. Sure, the big guys have the leverage, but the lone wolves feel their local roots and market-specific savvy suit them well. “We don’t see that being a single station is not a viable model,” says Steve Wheeler, WSIL president, general manager—and owner.

The uniqueness of the doublehyphenated market allows a locally owned solo to compete. The DMA covers a vast region and lacks a major metropolitan area. Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the largest of the cities, with 39,000 people. WSIL is licensed to Harrisburg, Ill. WPSD is in Paducah, Ky. Raycom’s KFVS is in Cape Girardeau. “Everybody pretty much rules their backyard,” says Wheeler.

Cape Girardeau is also home to KBSI, Sinclair’s Fox affiliate, which operates MyNetworkTV station WDKA. CBS affiliate KFVS produces the 9 p.m. news for the station. Comcast and Mediacom are major subscription TV players.

Raycom also owns CW affiliate WQWQ, which Tim Ingram, VP and general manager of the pair, says is humming along. WQWQ is actually a CW-MeTV hybrid. “We think we’ve got it programmed correctly,” he says. “It’s going gangbusters.”

KFVS and WPSD were tied in total day household ratings in May. KFVS won prime and morning and early evening news. WPSD took 10 p.m. news by the narrowest of margins.

1102_MarketEye_Chart.jpgKFVS enjoys Raycom’s investment in technology, such as what Ingram calls “the newsroom of the future”—a six-month, seven-figure project that features a digital-centric workflow and collaborative floor plan. It airs Raycom shows Fix It and Finish It and Flip My Food. KFVS also enjoys access to talent from elsewhere in the Raycom group. Chief meteorologist Bob Reeves, who had 40 years at the station, retired earlier this year. Grant Dade moved up from KLTV Tyler (Texas).

The rivals are busy too. WSIL grabbed Dr. Oz from KFVS at 3 p.m. WPSD is working on what Bill Evans, VP of news and operations, calls “the last nugget” of its HD build-out: field acquisition. The station airs Antenna TV and Heartland on its subchannels.

DMA No. 81 is often a steppingstone for talent. It’s one of Evans’ favorite aspects of Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg. “In 2½-3 years, I see them evolve as journalists,” he says. “When they work in my shop, they can make the step to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis.”

The stations benefitted from hot political races in three states. “It’s the highest political we’ve ever produced,” says David Jernigan, WPSD VP of sales and programming. Residents like the small-town feel, coupled with access to major metros such as St. Louis, Memphis and Chicago. Says Ingram: “It’s just kind of down home here.”

WHAT’S WORKING IN PADUCAH-CAPE GIRARDEAU-HARRISBURG: WIDE MARKET SHOWING THE LOVE WITH LIVEU

With so much mileage to cover within the market, KFVS relies on cellularbonded backpacks that enable reporters to travel light on far-flung stories. The Raycom station has two LiveU portable transmission packs, and hopes to add more in the coming months. “You can drive for twoplus hours and still be in the market,” says Tim Ingram, VP and general manager. “We can put a LiveU pack with them and do it much more efficiently than sending a large satellite truck.”

As the news leader, KFVS prides itself on covering the whole of the DMA, and the portable live gear is key to its mission. “It’s a wonderful piece of technology,” says Ingram. “We are committed to live, local, late-breaking, and getting people out to the scene efficiently is extremely important to us.”