Market Eye: Sparking High-Energy Coverage

Houston stations put market’s riches back into news operations

Why This Matters

What’s Working in Houston

Fox stations tend to be bold and, at times, loud. KRIV Houston is both with Fox FaceOff, which pits an African-American activist against a white conservative talk show host. Quanell X is the former (think Al Sharpton), and Matt Patrick is the latter (think Rush Limbaugh). The segments air Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 and 9 p.m., start with a bell going off, run 2-2½ minutes apiece and get plenty heated. Even so, “We don’t want yelling and screaming and talking over each other—we want passion,” says D’Artagnan Bebel, KRIV VP and general manager.

Some people love the Face Off pair and some can’t stand them, but it appears everyone has a reaction. “It’s something no one else does,” Bebel says. “We’re trying to reinvent the way we do local news.” —MM

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With an enviably diverse economy that goes well beyond its
trademark energy base, Houston was, by several accounts,
last in and first out of the recession. Nielsen’s No. 10 DMA
is an impressive No. 6 on BIA/Kelsey’s revenue list, and TV revenue is pacing a few percentage
points ahead of last year’s robust
performance. “It’s arguably
the healthiest local economy in the
country,” says Roger Baird, KIAH
VP and general manager.

The Houston TV market is one
of the nation’s finest. ABC-owned
KTRK and Belo’s KHOU have waged
a tight battle for years, while Post-
Newsweek’s KPRC has made major
strides under new leadership. “The
viewers are the winners,” says Susan
McEldoon, president and general
manager at KHOU, a CBS affiliate. “There
are three really outstanding stations that deliver
real good product consistently.”

Make that four: Univision’s KXLN is, in the
words of a rival GM, a “dominant, dominant
station.” KXLN changed its tagline six months
ago to “The Leader Regardless of Language”
(from “Together We Make the Difference”).
“It’s a fact that we are proud of, and thought
it should be part of our slogan,” says David
Loving, senior VP/general manager of KXLN.

Univision has a duopoly in KXLN and Uni-
Más sibling KFTH. So does Fox, with KRIV and
MyNetworkTV station KTXH. Tribune owns
CW affiliate KIAH. Telemundo has KTMD and
Liberman has Estrella TV station KZJL. Comcast
is Houston’s dominant subscription TV operator.

KTRK, KHOU and KPRC sent reporters to
Rome for the papal appointment, and the major
stations were well represented in Boston during
the marathon bombings too. Closer to home was
the fertilizer plant explosion and serious flooding
in late April. “It’s been a very intense news
period, and we’ve been very aggressive,” says
Henry Florsheim, president and GM at KTRK.

KTRK won the major English-language news
races in the February sweeps, including 10 p.m.
with a 6.3 household rating/11.3 share—ahead
of KHOU’s 6.1/11. KHOU won primetime.
KTRK’s Florsheim credits experience and consistency
in his newsroom for the wins. “Viewers
trust and rely on us and know we have covered
the market well for a long time,” he says.

The stations are trying new strategies.
KPRC has Deborah Collura, Post-Newsweek
VP of news, running its own news operation.
Collura is pushing promotables every night.
“They’re the stories you only find on KPRC,”
says Jerry Martin, VP and general manager.
“We promote them heavily, and they seem to
have made a difference.”

KIAH began promoting Arsenio Hall’s September
arrival in February, coinciding with African-
American History Month. KXLN introduced a
new set in April and has a new Sunday current
events show, Conexion Texas, that is shared with
other Univision stations across the state.

KHOU grabbed local sports icon Bob Allen,
who ended almost four decades at KTRK in
January, re-introducing him to viewers April
24. McEldoon says the timing is perfect.
“Having someone of Bob’s caliber is terrific,”
she says.

KHOU also has new faces in its weather
team, with David Paul named chief meteorologist
at the beginning of the year.
KRIV has a big name at 5 p.m. in Don
Teague, a veteran of both NBC News and
CBS News. The Fox station, which skews African-
American and Hispanic, offers franchise
segments that include Fox Face Off,
good deeds-focused Faith in Action, and
Hometown Fridays, which sees the Fox26 team
set up in a different community each Friday
during sweeps months. “I want us to be out
in the community more,” says D’Artagnan
Bebel, KRIV VP and general manager.

Several stations are using Rentrak to get another
perspective on the tight ratings race. “It’s a
lot more competitive than it was two years ago,”
says Martin. “It’s a much closer battle.”

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