Market Eye: Jazzing Up the News

Salt Lake City stations each offer a unique perspective

Multiple Salt Lake City stations are making claims on being the market’s best. KSL had the title for years, but the retirement of key anchors and NBC’s problems in primetime bumped it off the pace. KUTV was pleased to swoop into the lead, but KSTU and its young-skewing strategy is pushing hard for the title too. “There is good news in this market,” says Darrell Brown, president of Bonneville International, which owns KSL. “Everyone puts on good product.”

As if three strong competitors were not enough, ABC affiliate KVTX has gone through a thorough rebrand, unveiling a Good 4 Utah tagline, and is no longer content to be an also-ran. “Good 4 Utah is our focus—that’s what drives us constantly,” says Richard Doutre-Jones, VP and general manager of KTVX-KUCW.

Sinclair owns CBS affiliate KUTV and Nexstar has ABC-CW-aligned KTVX-KUCW. Tribune picked up Fox affiliate KSTU in its Local TV acquisition. In 2013, Brown, former McGraw-Hill Broadcasting president, was named president of KSL Broadcast Group. More recently, he became president of Bonneville. Tanya Vea, KSL station manager and VP, brought the TV, newspaper and radio newsrooms together under one roof. “It’s got to be probably the most advanced combined newsroom in the country,” says Brown.

Sinclair also owns MyNet-workTV station KMYU. Larry Miller Communications has independent KJZZ. Spanish-language options include Univision’s KUTH and Liberman’s KPNZ, which airs Estrella TV.

0201_MarketEye_Chart.jpgComcast is Salt Lake City’s primary subscription TV operator, and satellite penetration is high in the vast, mountainous DMA. It’s one of a handful of U.S. markets with Google Fiber as a television option.

Salt Lake City dropped one spot in the most recent Nielsen rankings, to No. 34. But the general managers say the economy is robust. Unemployment is low, and the tech sector is booming.

The stations are fighting for ratings points. KUTV grabbed Ellen from KTVX and has the social media-driven show The Refresh at 3 p.m. (“Station to Station,” Dec. 15, 2014). KTVX takes its show on the road in June and October for its “Good 4 Utah Road Tour,” doing live reports from various corners of the market. KSL overhauled its 6:30 p.m. news in favor of a longer-form magazine show called Primetime 5. “It’s a lot of deep-diving on stuff,” says Brown.

KSTU, which produces 10 hours of news each weekday, features a dedicated social media reporter, Alison Croghan, in its morning news. Main anchors Hope Woodside and Bob Evans recently marked 20 years together on the anchor desk. “We have the most experience in news talent,” says Tim Ermish, VP and general manager.

KUTV was tops in early morning news in the November sweeps and also took late news—its 8.1 household rating/17 share ahead of KSL’s 6.4/14—and primetime. KSL won early evening news, while KSTU is a force in the 25-54 demo.

Doutre-Jones, who arrived two years ago, is energized by the SLC news race. “It’s been one of the most fun and exciting experiences that I’ve had professionally,” says the local TV vet.

KSL DIGS DEEP, GOES LONG

With a vast newsroom that includes TV, radio and the Deseret News newspaper, KSL is flexing its investigative might on vital Salt Lake City issues. Last spring, the station blew out its late news for a commercial-free special on teen suicide, a major issue in Utah.

“We asked ourselves, what would a leading news organization do?” says Darrell Brown, president of KSL parent Bonneville International.

Utah has a distressingly high rate of teen suicide, but Tanya Vea, VP and station manager, says it’s a topic many stations do not want to touch. “It gets no coverage in our market,” she says. “None at all.”

Driven by the “KSL Investigators,” the NBC affiliate set its sights on another crushing social issue Jan. 29 when it kicked off February sweeps with a special on shootings by police. “We’re not focusing on Ferguson,” says Vea. “We are focusing on the market here.”