Market Eye: Pacific Northwest Pioneers

Portland local news race heats up as stations go ‘four’ it

Why This Matters

What’s Working in Portland

Portland is getting its national TV close-up this month, as Wheel of Fortune is set in the market for all of May. John Tamerlano, general manager at KATU, says Pat, Vanna and their Wheel crew were in town throughout April and put 20 shows in the can—getting as many as 2,500 spectators out for tapings. “We’ve been on them to come for years,” Tamerlano says.

Portland rolled out the red carpet to entice the Wheel folks, including a meeting with the mayor for the show’s principals and some serious sightseeing. For a city that’s often in the shadow of Seattle and San Francisco, it was a blast of affirmation when the convoy of Wheel production trucks came rolling in. “It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it,” says Tamerlano. “The show got overwhelming support in the market.” —MM

A Pacific Northwest news race that was already tighter
than a hipster’s skinny jeans got hotter still after The
Oprah Winfrey Show
departed from the broadcast arena last
year. Portland powerhouse KGW thought long and hard,
and tapped reams of research, to figure out how to best fill
the yawning gap. DJ Wilson, KGW president and general
manager, wanted a show with a “takeaway,” as ‘Oprah’
had—an actionable piece of wisdom doled out each day.

The NBC affiliate opted for an hour-long
local newscast targeted to women. Your 4
O’Clock News
is a very different animal from
the broadcasts it leads into, says Wilson—
different writing, different studio at Pioneer
Courthouse Square (“our own little Rockefeller
Center,” she says), different feel altogether.

“Our DNA is a hard news station,” Wilson
says. “If there’s an established news period, we
need to be in it.”

No time slot has seen more action of late
in DMA No. 22 than 4 p.m. KATU has been
in the news game at 4 since 2009, and KOIN
jumped in last year. KPTV, however, opted to
get out of the news race, slotting Judge Judy
at 4 and introducing a newscast at 6. “We
spend a lot of time analyzing it, and decided to
zag when everyone else zigged,” says Patrick
McCreery, KPTV VP/general manager. “Now
we probably look more like a traditional affiliate than other Fox af! liates.”

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The first station in the market to air news at
4 p.m., ABC affiliate KATU, won the ratings
race in the February sweeps with a 3.3 household
rating/8.7 share, ahead of KGW’s 2.5/6.8.
(KATU won the 25-54 demo race by a tenth
of a ratings point.) John Tamerlano, senior VP/
GM at KATU, says the hot competition exists
throughout the day. Late news is a “dog! ght,”
he says. “On any given night, anyone and
everyone can be within a tenth of a point of
No. 1. It depends on lead-in, and who grew
their share of lead-in,” Tamerlano says.

KOIN, a CBS affiliate being acquired by LIN
Broadcasting in its acquisition of New Vision
Television’s stations, won primetime in February.
Meredith’s KPTV took an extremely close
6 a.m. households race, with KGW winning
adults 25-54. Belo’s KGW won total day, early
evening and late news—the latter with a 4/10.5
in households, ahead of KOIN’s 3.8/10.1.

Other players include Tribune’s CW affiliate
KRCW, which is managed by its sister Seattle
station. Fisher owns KATU and Univision affiliate KUNP. Meredith has MyNetworkTV affiliate KPDX, which airs local news at 8 p.m.
Comcast is Portland’s main cable operator.

Portland is a destination for the creative
class, whose hipster ways are satirized on the
IFC sketch comedy show, Portlandia. (It’s a
place you go to retire at 35, as the local saying
goes.) Start-ups abound, but the market
sorely lacks Fortune 500 companies other
than Nike—a factor in Portland being rated
the No. 32 revenue market by BIA/Kelsey.

“It’s a challenging economic environment,”
says Wilson. “The market doesn’t create a lot
of wealth. We have some of the most stunning
beaches, but it doesn’t pay your mortgage.”

Portland stations are pushing for an edge.
McCreery says the Meredith pair has focused on
community partnerships, such as with the local
Major League Soccer team, to give itself a stronger
presence in the market’s urban center. “We
needed a deeper connection, and we’ve achieved
that,” he says. “We’re seeing the results now.”

KGW will drop the syndicated Anderson this
fall in favor of Katie. KATU borrowed the “Add
One Job” initiative from VP/GM Larry Delia at
WXIN Indianapolis, and has compelled local
businesses to create some 150 jobs this spring.

The competition and new arrivals keep
Portland stations hustling. “Our attitude is,
we’re in sweeps every day,” Tamerlano says.

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