Market Eye: A River Runs Through ItQuad Cities market offers distinct Midwestern flavor, the mighty Mississippi and a rocking NBC station 1/28/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
The Davenport/Rock Island-Moline television market, known as the Quad
Cities, offers the best of both worlds, according to station chiefs there.
(Bettendorf, Iowa, is officially the fourth of the Quad Cities, while several
others, including East Moline, are part of the region.) It has the picturesque
farmland one associates with the breadbasket of America, as well as
classy museums, a symphony orchestra and other cosmopolitan offerings.
Ken Freedman, KWQC VP and general manager,
describes his reaction to arriving in the market as,
“Wow—I can’t believe all these amazing things exist
here, smack dab in the middle of the country.”
KWQC, an NBC affiliate owned by Young Broadcasting,
is a monster. The Davenport-based station thrives on a
relentless local strategy. “A high percentage [of residents]
see the world through the lens as we present it,” Freedman
says. “The community relies on us for news and sports
and weather; it’s a significant responsibility for the station.”
KWQC won all the major ratings races in the November
sweeps, including 10 p.m. news with a 12.2
household rating/28 share, ahead of WQAD’s 8/19.
Owing to both NBC’s rebounding primetime shows and
KWQC’s sign-on-to-sign-off strength, its 7.7/14 rating
in primetime bested CBS af! liate WHBF’s 7.3/13.
KWQC’s average total-day household rating for the
past three sweeps was 4.9/20, ahead of WQAD’s 2.8/11.
Local TV owns ABC affiliate WQAD. Citadel Communications
owns WHBF. Grant Communications has
a Fox-CW duopoly in KLJB and KGCW. Mediacom is
the primary subscription-TV operator, while Comcast
has a substantial number of subscribers too.
WHBF is playing catch-up. Marshall Porter, senior VP
and general manager, admits with some sheepishness
that the station employed tape in its studio as recently
as late 2011, but is fully hi-def now. WHBF is expecting
to soon introduce an HD weather system, and Porter
believes it was the first station in the market to offer HD
commercials. “We’ve made quite a leap,” he says.
WHBF added a two-hour morning newscast in fall
2011, led by anchor Meredith Dennis, formerly with
KWQC. “We are competitive from that standpoint,” says
Porter. “Clearly, we are in the game.”
Jim Kizer took the reins at WQAD in December,
coming from advertising/sales outfit NRS Media; he
previously ran seven of the former Federal Broadcasting
stations. Kizer says he was drawn to the opportunity
to work with Local TV and a set of leaders he has
admired. Kizer notes there’s a lot of room for “growth
and improvement” at WQAD. In November, the Rock
Island-based station shifted the syndicated Ellen from 3
to 4 p.m. “There’s nice improvement there,” Kizer says.
KWQC’s local attack is formidable. Paula Sands Live, featuring
fashion, health and “what’s happening this weekend”
from a local icon, celebrated its 30th year on the air
in 2012. Host Sands’ relationship with viewers is a close
one; she has not shied from sharing details of her struggles
with cancer. The show leads into a 4 p.m. news; Freedman
notes that Paula Sands beat Dr. Oz at 3 in November, while
the 4 p.m. news out-rated Ellen, 5.1 to 3.7 in households.
It all sets up KWQC’s early evenings quite nicely.
Starting this month, the station has a local presence
in a new time slot, taking over KLJB’s 9 p.m. news
production, which used to come out of WQAD. The
station added five staffers in the process. “It’s got a different
feel, a different tempo,” says Freedman. “I’m
hearing good things in the community—they seem to
like the feel and energy we brought to that.”
The Quad Cities market, bisected by the Mississippi
River, is home to John Deere and Alcoa and military
base Rock Island Arsenal. Agriculture is a major industry
in the region. “If you go 15 minutes away from the
TV stations, you’re out in farmland,” says Porter.
While more than four cities exist in the DMA, the commercial
stations are licensed to Davenport, Rock Island
and Moline, which are the three most populated cities.
The Quad Cities’ proximity to other urban centers,
including Chicago and Des Moines, makes it a trucking
and transportation hub as well. There are jobs to be
had, the TV execs say. “People who are willing to work
hard and are hungry for business will find it,” says Kizer.
While Nielsen ranks Davenport/Rock Island-Moline
as its No. 99 DMA, BIA/Kelsey has it as No. 93 in revenue.
As be! ts a market in a state that kicks off the
national election season, spending from the candidates
and Super PACs last year was outlandish. “Political exceeded
expectations and imaginations,” says Porter.
Stations are playing with newer platforms to extend
their brands. KWQC has the 24/7 Weather Channel on
its dot-two and, fittingly, on cable channel 247. WQAD
is trying Big 12 basketball games on its dot-three.
WHBF has a new mobile partnership with Syncbak and subbed Live Well Network for the vintage
hits digi-net RTV. “I thought it was great programming
[on RTV], but the advertisers just did not step up,” says
Porter. “Live Well has taken off for us.”
KWQC says it has almost tripled its Facebook fans in
the past year, going from 20,000 to 55,000-plus. The
station appears to have no trouble making friends. “We
have the most recognized and respected news team in the
market,” says Freedman. “They’ve been together a long
time, and the community trusts and relies on them.”
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