Local TV

Market Eye: Keeping Minnesota 'Nice' in Any Kind of Weather

Storms in Minneapolis-St. Paul never seem to take a break, and neither do the Twin Cities’ meteorologists 7/22/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Minneapolis-St. Paul

WHETHER OFFICIALLY ON STAFF OR NOT, WEATHER WATCHER NETWORK PITCHES IN Stations in the Twin Cities could always use a few more bodies in their weather centers, and WCCO has added hundreds of them with its Weather Watcher Network (WWN). WWN taps weather fans and aficionados from all across the market, puts them through the National Weather Service’s Skywarn weather-spotting training and works their findings into the station’s reportage. “We cover the whole DMA, not just the metro,” says Brien Kennedy, WCCO president and general manager. “We make sure we serve all our viewers, but we can’t be everywhere.”

Members have their own weather stations, including rain gauges and thermometers. The program started last November, and WCCO had the bunch of them to the station for lunch in April. Kennedy says 70% of the weather watchers report on a weekly basis. “They have a real passion for it,” he says. “We believe it really works for the station.” —MM

mmalone@nbmedia.com | @BCMikeMalone

While the Twin Cities are known for their brutal winters, weather is a yearround
story in Minneapolis-St. Paul. In fact, Earth Day events in April were canceled due to snow. When mild temperatures finally come
around, people make the most of them—and TV viewers
stay tuned to see how much precious fair weather
is in store. “It’s a great town to get outside,” says Brien
Kennedy, WCCO VP and general manager. “People are
just fanatical when it’s nice out.”

To better cover the rapidly changing weather, as well
as the geographically expansive market, WCCO has
tapped a small army of weather enthusiasts to send
in their dispatches. KARE tackles severe
storms with the WeatherNation network on its subchannel;
that multicast was cocreated by Paul Douglas, who
spent many years in the market as meteorologist at
KARE and WCCO. “We can use the secondary channel
as a relief valve when there’s a weather situation,” says
John Remes, KARE president and general manager.

Minneapolis-St. Paul does not feature the big-city crime
that often dominates local airtime in other markets. The
well-established phrase “Minnesota Nice” describes the
unfailingly polite nature of residents; newscasts often play
up the positive, such as extreme acts of volunteerism.

There’s a hot race between CBS-owned WCCO and
Gannett’s KARE, which airs NBC programming. WCCO
won total-day ratings in the May sweeps, along with early
evening news, and breezed to a 10 p.m. win in households,
its 9.1 rating/18 share ahead of KARE’s 6.9/14.
But KARE took the 25-54 contest at 10 handily with a
5.1/15. KARE won 6 a.m., while Hubbard Broadcastingowned
ABC affiliate KSTP took 4:30 and 5 a.m.

Fox owns KMSP and the MyNetwork station WFTC.
Hubbard owns independent KSTC. Sinclair has CW
affiliate WUCW. Comcast is the Twin Cities’ primary
subscription TV operator.

Kennedy says WCCO thrives on its legacy status, CBS’
strong primetime, and an “evolved” local content strategy
that makes good use of multiple platforms, including
a sister radio station. WCCO added Saturday-morning
news last year and expanded Sunday mornings in the
fall. “We’ve become more relevant to viewers, especially
in weather,” Kennedy says. “We’re not just informing
them, but connecting with the community.”

KARE is big in the 25-54 demo, and Remes is encouraged
by NBC’s strides in primetime, which includes
strong summer performer America’s Got Talent.
“We look forward to a new season of continued
improvement,” he says.

The station’s news crews push an advocacy role, says
Remes. “People look to us to look out for the community,”
he says. “People want to see somebody making
a difference on a daily basis.”

KMSP, with 49 hours of local news per week, is attempting
to carve a niche with a robust point of view
in its local programming. Carol Rueppel, VP and general
manager, refers to the “original formats” behind
lively talkers at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. “It’s not the same
traditional format people have been watching for 30
years,” she says. “People already know the headlines
of the day, so we need to add perspective to the news.”

A partnership between Fox and Clear Channel sees
the local TV and radio personalities turn up on each
other’s air. Tapping radio guy Tony Fly, sister WFTC
on July 22 debuts the nightly one-hour entertainment
show On the Fly at 11 p.m. KMSP traffic reporter
Kelsey Soby also appears on that program.

WFTC won the bidding for an NFL Minnesota Vikings
game that will air on NFL Network nationally
Nov. 7, giving the junior station significant promotional
might for a night. “That’s going to be an exciting programming
event for WFTC,” says Rueppel.

KSTP has been adding local content too. The station
had a late local news sandwiched around Nightline at
10:30, but when ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel Live to 11,
it gave KSTP the chance to build an hour block from 10-
11. “Both are working out well,” says Robert Hubbard,
group president of television and KSTP-KSTC GM.

Hubbard Broadcasting pops up in the rumor mill now
and then as a target for acquisition in these M&A-mad
times. “We are not for sale,” declares Hubbard.

BIA/Kelsey says DMA No. 15 is No. 19 in terms
of revenue; the general managers say business is up a
tick or two year to date. The Twin Cities feature several
corporations with global reach, including Target, Cargill
and United HealthCare. The famed Mall of America,
with 4.3 miles of storefront footage, is adding 5.6 million
more square feet of retail, hospitality and entertainment.
“It must not be big enough,” quips Remes.

Remes is, like much of the snow sports-savvy market,
looking forward to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

Coming from West Palm Beach, Fla., those winters
have been sobering for Kennedy, but he has developed
a taste for ice fishing—and Twin Cities TV. “It’s a good,
competitive market with very good broadcasters,” he
says. “We all work hard to serve the viewers.”


Next: Greensboro-High Point, N.C.

What’s Working in Minneapolis-St. Paul

WHETHER OFFICIALLY ON STAFF OR NOT, WEATHER WATCHER NETWORK PITCHES IN Stations in the Twin Cities could always use a few more bodies in their weather centers, and WCCO has added hundreds of them with its Weather Watcher Network (WWN). WWN taps weather fans and aficionados from all across the market, puts them through the National Weather Service’s Skywarn weather-spotting training and works their findings into the station’s reportage. “We cover the whole DMA, not just the metro,” says Brien Kennedy, WCCO president and general manager. “We make sure we serve all our viewers, but we can’t be everywhere.”

Members have their own weather stations, including rain gauges and thermometers. The program started last November, and WCCO had the bunch of them to the station for lunch in April. Kennedy says 70% of the weather watchers report on a weekly basis. “They have a real passion for it,” he says. “We believe it really works for the station.” —MM

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