Market Eye: Hoping the Fog Will Lift

Bay Area toils through tough times

Even charmed places such as San Francisco are not exempt from the nation's economic malaise. The No. 6 DMA still has its considerable attributes—tech innovation pervades, Lombard Street remains crooked as ever, and the rebuilt Giants are gunning for a spot in baseball's playoffs. But residents are gravely concerned about keeping their jobs and homes.

“Any economic news, whether it's positive or negative, seems to be the talk of the town,” says KRON General Manager Brian Greif.

And KRON itself has been the talk of the station world. Owner Young Broadcasting's 10 stations are being acquired by a cadre of lenders; seven outlets (not including KRON) will be managed by Gray Television.

KRON is a MyNetworkTV affiliate that cranks out 11 hours of news each day, thanks in large part to an extensive video-journalist program. Greif says most employees seem pleased to remain under Young management: “People I've spoken to are relieved to still report to [Young President] Deb McDermott.”

There's a wide array of stations representing San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose's ethnic groups, ranging from Univision station KDTV and Telemundo outlet KSTS to Asian station KTSF. Network-owned stations abound: ABC owns KGO, NBC has KNTV and the Telemundo affiliate, and CBS owns KPIX and CW outlet KBCW.

But Cox's Fox affiliate KTVU rules ratings and revenue. “We have complete Bay Area coverage,” says KTVU/KICU VP/General Manager Tim McVay. “We make sure we understand the market and deliver content in the style the market expects.”

KTVU won primetime in May and took late news with its 10 p.m. offering; KPIX edged out KGO for the lead at 11, posting a 4.2 household rating/11 share. KTVU led the revenue race with $110.8 million in 2008, according to BIA Financial.

As befits a market packed with entrepreneurs, stations are quick to innovate. The CBS duopoly introduced the Taste Korea ad campaign to connect with the market's considerable Korean population. Gawker veteran Owen Thomas took over KNTV's digital business in May. KGO offers interactive crime maps on its Website. TeleFutura outlet KFSF recently added the public affairs show Retrato Hispano (Hispanic Portrait).

General managers say they see signs of a rebound. KPIX recently got its first General Motors ad request in 12 months. “It portends that they've turned the corner,” says President/General Manager Ron Longinotti, “and are working to regain the confidence of the buying public.”

Times may be tough, but station execs remind themselves that they're working in a world-class city. “People from all over the world come here for vacation,” McVay says. “I have to remind myself to look out the window sometimes.”

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