Local TV

Market Eye: KREM of the Crop

Growing market jumps two spots in Nielsen rankings as stations battle for new arrivals 9/19/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working In Spokane

The impetus for KHQ’s new Center for Investigative Action (CIA) was a recent Federal Communications Commission study that challenged local TV news to invest in more substantial reporting, at the expense of fires and car wrecks and other local news staples. It was also the emergence of Connect With Kleck, which sees KHQ anchor Dan Kleckner responding to viewer questions about everything from healthcare to local shopping scams. So heavy was the load of queries that the station decided it needed an investigative department to address them. “Connect With Kleck took off in unimaginable ways,” says Neal Boling, KHQ executive news director.

Kleckner is one of five reporters working out of the station’s CIA department, which debuted its first report Aug. 31. Boling says consumer advocacy and government accountability are cornerstones of CIA’s coverage. “Our goal is to provide a service that no one else is offering,” the news director adds. —MM

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KHQ Spokane isn’t sitting around waiting for NBC’s primetime to jump-start
this fall, but the long-awaited turnaround at 30 Rock sure would be nice for
the Cowles-owned station. KHQ and CBS rival KREM have been locked in a
tight ratings and revenue battle for years, but KREM’s primacy in prime,
among other factors, has helped the station grab the momentum in Spokane.

CBS primetime rocks right now, but everyone in
the KREM newsroom has played a part in the station’s
emergence. The anchors are out there reporting, and all
reporters are self-sufficient VJs. “I’m real proud of our
staff,” says Jamie Aitken, president and general manager
at KREM. “It was a tough recession and we trimmed
staff, but we accomplish a lot more with our resources
than anyone in the community.”

Belo’s KREM and KHQ split the May sweeps titles.
KHQ edged out KREM in total day household ratings,
but KREM aced primetime, nearly doubling KHQ’s numbers.
KREM had the highest 5 p.m. news ratings and
took late news with a 4.1 household rating/21 share—
besting KHQ’s 3.3/17. KHQ, employing a fresh “New,
Now, Next” philosophy in mornings, won a.m. news.
“There’s a harder edge and not so much chatter,” says
Patricia McCrae, KHQ president/general manager. “And
Weather on the 6’s has really resonated with viewers.”

KHQ edged out KREM in July’s late news race.

With the fall season here, some new battles are taking
shape. KREM debuted a 6:30 p.m. news Sept. 12, moving
Access Hollywood to, fittingly, access. It will face off
with Morgan Murphy Media’s ABC affiliate, KXLY, in that
slot. “It’s a time period we looked at for some time,” says
Aitken. “There are only a few places to expand.”

KXLY countered with a new anchor team Sept. 12, with
Good Morning Northwest anchors Nadine Woodward and
Mike Gonzalez shifting to 5, 6 and 6:30 p.m., and evening
anchor Robyn Nance and sports director Derek Deis taking
over daybreak. Teddie Gibbon, VP and general manager
at KXLY, says the moves give the station “the best
opportunity for continued long-term success.”

KXLY got back in the 11 p.m. news game, albeit in
truncated form, on Sept. 3. A few years after scrapping
a late Saturday newscast, KXLY debuted a weekly
10-minute show called 411 early this month.

A battle is shaping up at 4 p.m. too, where Dr. Oz
has succeeded Oprah Winfrey on KREM, moving from 7
p.m. “When you lose an institution like Oprah, it’s nice
to know that one of her most popular guests is taking
her place,” says Aitken.

KHQ has put Ellen at 3 p.m., leading into Judge Judy’s
4 p.m. slot. KHQ program director Mike Dugger says
the move will invigorate KHQ’s underperforming 5
p.m. news. “We’ve been weak at 5 because of Oprah
on KREM,” he says. “We think that will change now.”

While KREM and KHQ do battle for the ratings titles,
the competition doesn’t drop off much after them.
All Big Four affiliates pull in at least 20% of Spokane’s
broadcast revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey, an atypical
level of market parity. (KREM and KHQ were virtually
deadlocked at a little more than $14 million in revenue
last year, per BIA.) Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting
owns Fox affiliate KAYU. Belo owns CW af! liate KSKN,
and KXLY airs MyNetworkTV on its multicast channel.
Comcast is the dominant cable operator in Spokane.

KHQ has one of the more innovative multicast channels
in the country, airing more than 200 live sports
events per year—spanning high school basketball to
motocross to arena football—on its “SWX” channel.
SWX features a SportsCenter-esque nightly wrap-up
show at 10:30. The network is also carried in other
Washington markets, including Yakima.

“We’ve really expanded SWX to produce as much as
we can,” says McRae.

Spokane jumped from DMA No. 75 to 73 in the
most recent Nielsen market ranking, thanks to a 1.4%
population growth rate from 2005 to 2010 (according
to BIA/Kelsey). The governor’s race will spark political
spending next year, but the local economy is sputtering
a bit. “Flat is the new up,” says Debbie Sieverding, general
sales manager at KXLY. “We don’t have the peaks
and valleys. We have small rises and low falls.”

A giant medical community, government and Fairchild
Air Force Base are Spokane’s main employers. Additions
downtown have the Inland Northwest city looking decidedly
more cosmopolitan. An Apple store arrived last fall,
and Trader Joe’s will start selling its quirky grocery offerings
next month. “Downtown is strong,” says Sieverding.

The top dogs are scrambling to further break from the
pack. KHQ has a new investigative department and a
very popular interactive segment starring Dan Kleckner
called Connect With Kleck. KREM says it had
the most page views among Spokane news sites in June,
topping even the Spokesman-Review newspaper. KREM’s
digital game plan is robust, with a weather app that came
out in July, an app covering Gonzaga basketball forthcoming
and Belo’s Yollar.com digital couponing initiative.

“Everyone in the newsroom,” says Aitken, “is a digital
contributor.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

What’s Working In Spokane

The impetus for KHQ’s new Center for Investigative Action (CIA) was a recent Federal Communications Commission study that challenged local TV news to invest in more substantial reporting, at the expense of fires and car wrecks and other local news staples. It was also the emergence of Connect With Kleck, which sees KHQ anchor Dan Kleckner responding to viewer questions about everything from healthcare to local shopping scams. So heavy was the load of queries that the station decided it needed an investigative department to address them. “Connect With Kleck took off in unimaginable ways,” says Neal Boling, KHQ executive news director.

Kleckner is one of five reporters working out of the station’s CIA department, which debuted its first report Aug. 31. Boling says consumer advocacy and government accountability are cornerstones of CIA’s coverage. “Our goal is to provide a service that no one else is offering,” the news director adds. —MM

 

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