Market Eye: Political Preview

Presidential hopefuls descend on Iowa (DMA #72)

Just as the Des Moines-Ames area
has hit economic rebound mode,
Mother Nature is attempting to spoil
the party. The market has been anxiously
eyeing the escalating levels
of the Des Moines River after what
one station executive calls a “pretty hellacious
winter,” resulting in significant snow
melt and a perilously wet March.

Threatened levees are a big story in DMA
No. 72. News leader KCCI is keeping viewers
informed from its newsroom located
safely up on a hill, with a backup generator
at the ready. “We should be in good shape,”
says News Director Dave Busiek.

The Hearst station had a blockbuster November
sweeps, winning all the major races.
The CBS affi liate’s 18.0 household rating/
38 share easily topped Local TV-owned
WHO’s 10.0 rating/21 share in late news,
but the morning race was extremely close.
(A diary market, Des Moines will receive
February sweeps results in early April.)

NBC affiliate WHO has an ace up its
sleeve: full local high-definition programming,
which VP/General Manager Dale
Woods says should be fully operational this
spring. “The equipment is here—right now
we’re in training and rehearsals,” he says.
“We’ll be the first in the state to take our
entire operation HD.”

Rounding out the market are Sinclair’s
Fox affiliate KDSM, Citadel Communications’
ABC outlet
WOI and Pappas’ This TV-CW
duopoly KDMI/
KCWI. WHO produces
KDSM’s 9
p.m. news, while
WOI airs RTV programming
on its
digital channel. Des
Moines is also home
to Meredith Corp.,
along with numerous
insurance, banking
and agricultural entities.

The market held up relatively well during
the recession, with business off a modest
5%, by some estimates, in 2009. An
active political season, including governor
and senate races, will boost 2010 coffers.
“Political will only accentuate the positive
momentum we are seeing,” says WOI General
Manager Ray Cole.

Iowa is, of course, home to the caucuses,
and possible Republican presidential candidates
such as Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty
are already showing their faces and meeting
with community groups to muster support.
“They’re trying hard to make it look
like they’re not campaigning,” Busiek says.
“But they certainly hope to be seen.”

KCCI is deploying Hearst’s Next Generation
News initiative, which allows reporters
to publish stories and video directly to
the Web from out in the field, to cover both
the candidates and the flood waters. “We’re
just getting started with it, but it gives us
all kinds of flexibility in the field,” Busiek

Woods, meanwhile, hopes that WHO’s
HD adoption will push the station to the
top of the Des Moines heap. “We’re trying
to take the Hearst station down,” he says.
“We’re knocking on that door, and HD is
something people can rally around.”