Local TV

Market Eye: 'Refined' Tastes in SE Texas

New GMs, new owner raise the bar in Beaumont–Port Arthur 4/09/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Beaumont–Port Arthur

When Oprah Winfrey exited last year, stations nationwide scrambled for a unique new offering at 4 p.m. KBTV has one in Southeast Texas Live, which Darren Lehrmann, VP and general manager at the Nexstar station, calls a newsmag. The hour-long show, revamped from a more traditional newscast to a magazine format last year, features news blocks at 4 and 4:30 and at least one sponsored segment per program. Local TV execs wrestle with the ethics of paid segments in or around news programming, but Lehrmann says the show has hosts, not anchors, and sponsored bits are clearly marked with a “Paid for by…” graphic.

The segments include cooking and shopping sessions, and Lehrmann says they have to pass muster as compelling content. “It’s kind of opened up another revenue stream for us,” he says. “It can be multiple things— pay to play, or added value.” —MM

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Change does not come frequently to longtime southeast
Texas market leader KFDM Beaumont. Until fairly recently,
all the people running key departments, including sales,
news and engineering, had been in place for 30-plus years. General manager Larry Beaulieu had been at
KFDM for 37 years, and had also served as
a news anchor. (Yes, the GM was the 6 p.m.
anchor, too. Such is life in DMA No. 141.)

The wheels of change started rolling when
Beaulieu retired last September. In November,
Freedom Broadcasting, owner of the CBS affiliate since 1984, was acquired by Sinclair. In
December, longtime general sales manager Rix
Garey was upped to general manager.

Through it all, KFDM, where the branding
reads “You Can Count On Us,” has maintained
its primacy. “People have been counting on
us for 50-plus years,” says Garey. “The community
looks to KFDM when stuff happens.”

KFDM is not the only southeast Texas station
experiencing upheaval. Bruce Cummings took
over KBMT in March. Cummings is enjoying
poking around the Texas-Louisiana border. “It’s a
real gem here in southeast Texas,” he says. “People
are fabulous—polite, welcoming, warm. To
a person, it’s been, ‘Hey, what can I do to help?’”

KBTV boss Darren Lehrmann is a graybeard
among Beaumont GMs, recently
marking his two-year anniversary.

Beaumont–Port Arthur features
a robust economy. While Nielsen
lists it at No. 141, it’s No. 136 in
revenue, per BIA/Kelsey. It’s all
about energy here; KFDM stands
for Kall For Dependable Magnolene,
a nod to a former owner’s
brand of motor oil. The Keystone
Pipeline debate is closely watched,
as the proposed expansion would
run from Oklahoma to Port
Arthur. Refineries are everywhere.

Time Warner Cable is the dominant
subscription TV operator. Stations include
Nexstar’s Fox af! liate KBTV and Blue Bonnet’s
MyNetworkTV (MNT) outlet KUIL; KBMT
manages the latter through a local marketing
agreement. As often happens in smaller markets,
major networks air as multicasts. KFDM has The
CW on its .2. London Broadcasting’s ABC affiliate
KBMT has NBC on its .2, while KUIL began
airing Me-TV on its subchannel earlier this year.

KFDM doubles its nearest competitor, KBMT,
in most ratings races; it won the February
sweeps’ late news contest with a 16 household
rating/34 share, ahead of KBMT’s 6/12. KFDM’s
6 p.m. news posted an ostentatious 41 share.

The market made the network news programs
after a March 14 shooting at a county
courthouse left one dead and several wounded.
“That was a big deal in Beaumont,” says Garey.

The region isn’t likely to see much political
advertising, but its stable local economy should
make for a positive 2012. “The way it’s pacing,
I think it will be a great year,” says Cummings.

Stations are doing all they can to grab ratings
points. KBMT is part of a statewide news
network with its sibling London stations.
KUIL, known as MYTX, supplements MNT
fare with local sports. KBTV added a 5:30 p.m.
news in January 2011, and has its studios at
the Parkdale Mall. “It’s glass all around,” says
Lehrmann. “We’re fish in a fishbowl.”

All parties are curious how adding broadcast
giant Sinclair will affect the local scene. Garey
says he is pumped to have a “pure broadcaster” at
the helm. “I think we might see more resources
because they are a larger player,” he says. “At
Freedom, there were eight [stations]. Now there
are 76 or so. I think it will be good for us.”

Rivals say Sinclair’s incursion will be good
for them, too. “They’re a very good television
company, and we’re going to have to step up
our game,” says Lehrmann. “It’s going to increase
the competition here, that’s for sure.”

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

What’s Working in Beaumont–Port Arthur

When Oprah Winfrey exited last year, stations nationwide scrambled for a unique new offering at 4 p.m. KBTV has one in Southeast Texas Live, which Darren Lehrmann, VP and general manager at the Nexstar station, calls a newsmag. The hour-long show, revamped from a more traditional newscast to a magazine format last year, features news blocks at 4 and 4:30 and at least one sponsored segment per program. Local TV execs wrestle with the ethics of paid segments in or around news programming, but Lehrmann says the show has hosts, not anchors, and sponsored bits are clearly marked with a “Paid for by…” graphic.

The segments include cooking and shopping sessions, and Lehrmann says they have to pass muster as compelling content. “It’s kind of opened up another revenue stream for us,” he says. “It can be multiple things— pay to play, or added value.” —MM

 

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