Market Eye: Headed for Rapid RecoveryFour-city market features solid economy, strong stations, severe weather 6/24/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
To live in the Cedar Rapids region of Iowa is to live with an almost
constant threat of severe weather, such as the tornado that rolled
through the market June 12, when stations including KCRG and KWWL pre-empted primetime
for live coverage. The market
is marking the fifth anniversary of
the devastating flood of 2008, when
multiple rivers, including the Cedar
River, crested their banks and caused
massive damage and despair.
Local residents are hoping for an
uneventful summer, weather-wise.
“It’s a signature market for severe
weather,” says Jim McKernan, VP
and general manager of KWWL
and a Dubuque native. “Flooding is
a major issue and always has been.”
Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City-Dubuque
is DMA No. 90, down one spot from the
previous year’s Nielsen rankings. Atypical
of many Midwestern markets, it outperforms
its market size in revenue, at No. 87,
according to BIA/Kelsey.
Gazette Co.’s KCRG is the ABC affiliate and
a news power. The station turns 60 later this
year, and is getting stronger. It went fully HD
in January 2012, has a well-developed multicast
strategy and features the
market’s only 4:30 a.m. newscast. “The commitment
to informing the early riser was another
dedication point for our staffers,” says
Shannon Booth, director of products at KCRG.
(The station does not have a general manager.)
KCRG won the total-day ratings contest in
February, and had a clean sweep again in May.
That included a 12 household rating/30 share at
10 p.m., ahead of KWWL’s 8/20.
Quincy Newspapers-owned KWWL is a worthy
performer too, particularly in its Waterloo
backyard. McKernan, formerly a senior VP at
Bonten Media, jumped at the chance to come
home to work in February 2012. The station
offers Me-TV and This TV on its multicast
tier, and introduced a public affairs show, The
Steele Report, in February. McKernan likens
host Ron Steele to Johnny Wood, the legendary
TV personality he knew back in the Tennessee/
Virginia Tri-Cities DMA; McKernan
calls Steele “the dean of the market’s anchors.”
Operating in a diary market, McKernan is
waiting for May sweeps results to see how
Steele Report is faring, but he says the Nielsens
are not the only metric for success. “Sometimes
it’s not so much ratings but the kind of people
watching and the influence you have,” he says.
KWWL and KCRG each have four meteorologists.
KCRG booked an estimated $19.4 million
in revenue last year, according to BIA/Kelsey,
while KWWL had $13.9 million. Sinclair owns
CBS affiliate KGAN. The station has a services
agreement with Fox affiliate KFXA, owned by
Second Generation TV. KM Communications
owns CW affiliate KWKB. Northern Iowa’s primary
subscription TV operator is Mediacom.
Live, Local and Much-Liked
KCRG has a unique connection with viewers.
Based in Cedar Rapids, the station has bureaus
in Iowa City and Dubuque, boasts 56,000 Facebook
friends (to KWWL’s 30,000) and owns a
trio of LiveU video-over-cellular backpacks to
help its reporters chase stories in all corners of
the market. Booth is particularly pumped about
what the new technology represents for newsgathering.
“We were so fired up when we came
back from [the National Association of Broadcasters
show in April],” she says, “after being
there with 95,000 of our best broadcast friends.”
The local economy is solid. The market is
investing in wind energy, and the unemployment
level is enviable. With open Senate and
Congress seats, political spending will come.
The stations this month produced special programming
about the ’08 disaster. KGAN on June
16 aired Rising Above the Waters: The Corridor
Five Years Later. KCRG.com led with The Flood
of 2008: What If It Happens Again? in mid-June.
“There’s a lot to offer here—a great lifestyle,
family-centric, a common-sense approach to
doing things,” says McKernan. “But it is one of
those markets where your meteorologists have
to be vigilant.”