Local TV

Market Eye: Watershed Moment

Fresno–Visalia got the rain it needed—but it needs jobs, too 1/09/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Fresno-Visalia

Each quarter, a panel of community leaders assembles at KFSN headquarters for the ABC30 Advisory Council meeting. Ten people comprise the panel, representing a range of ethnic and geographic communities in the region; Dan Adams, KFSN president and general manager, refers to it as a “micromarket.” Community issues and potential story ideas are discussed. “They’re ambassadors for us,” Adams says. “We address their needs, and they provide feedback for us.”

Several other ABC-owned stations around the country hold community council meetings. KFSN’s was hatched in 2009, following former GM Bob Hall’s resignation after he made disparaging comments about minorities while under consideration for jury duty. Adams says improving community relations was a factor in creating the council. “It was a big contributor in why we launched this,” he says. “But it’s something I would always continue to do.” —MM

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As residents of Fresno–Visalia, Calif., saluted the close of 2011, they were
thankful that one of the region’s many entrenched problems was addressed
by the heavy rainfall that soaked the typically drought-stricken area. It was manna from heaven for the so-called Central
Valley’s abundant agricultural community, and it was
grist for the local news mill, too.

“It was one of the wettest years in the history of the
Central Valley, and it generated a lot of weather coverage,”
says Michael Carr, news director at KFSN. “All the
rain may have caused short-term
problems for people, but it was
of great benefit for farmers.”

Yet the Central Valley’s economic
ills continue. The housing
market is woeful, and unemployment
in the region is
north of 15%—inflated somewhat
by the seasonal nature of
farming. Political leaders are attempting
to diversify the local
economy, and jobless rates are
down year over year. But the
problems remain deep-seated.

“Fresno has the highest unemployment
rate in California, and
California has the highest unemployment
rate in the nation,”
says Charles Williams, KAIL
general manager and owner and
CEO of parent Trans-America
Broadcasting. “We are at ground zero.” (It may be of little
consolation that Bureau of Labor statistics show that Nevada
had a higher unemployment rate than California
in October, the most recent month data is available for.)

ABC-owned KFSN is a power in DMA No. 55, a
Nielsen diary market. KFSN’s estimated $21.7 million
in 2010 revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey, bested Titan
Broadcasting’s Fox affiliate KMPH’s $16 million. KFSN
was its usual monster in the November sweeps, winning
total day ratings comfortably, grabbing the morning and
evening news crowns and winning the 11 p.m. race with
a 4.6 household rating/22 share. (Fresno–Visalia is an
early-to-bed market, as one might expect from an agricultural
region.)

Primetime winner KMPH puts up strong numbers
with its 10 p.m. newscast, showing a 7.9 rating/20 share
in November. Univision’s KFTV is a Spanish-language
power in the 10 p.m. news race in Fresno.

KFSN keeps upping its game. The station is fully HD
from the field, and it replaced Oprah Winfrey with a 4
p.m. newscast on Sept. 12. “It’s going very well,” says
Dan Adams, president and general manager at KFSN.
“Research seems to be indicating that the 4 p.m. [news]
is very well received by the marketplace.”

Comcast is the major subscription TV operator in
Fresno–Visalia. Other broadcast outlets include Titan’s
CW affiliate KFRE, Granite’s NBC-aligned KSEE, High
Plains Broadcasting’s CBS outlet KGPE and Trans-America’s
MyNetworkTV affiliate KAIL. In addition to KFTV,
Univision owns TeleFutura station KTFF and a trio of
radio assets. Over 51% of the market claims Hispanic
origin; KFTV reaches them as they wake with the local
morning show Arriba Valle Central.

Stations are rolling out new offerings. KMPH has The
Big Bang Theory
at 6-7 p.m. and will likely bring back
its daily political show, Cal Vote 2012, when the political
scene starts to heat up Sept. 1. (KMPH also produced
a daily political show, which it syndicated around the
state in 2010: broadcastingcable.com/article/457995-
KMPH_Fights_For_Pol_Position_In_California.php
.)

Many of the stations’ new offerings are centered around
sports. Last fall, KGPE began to “hyphenate” news on
Sunday nights, in the words of VP/general manager Linda
Danna, with 30 minutes for news and 30 for sports. “It’s
the perfect lineup with CBS Sports,” Danna says.

KAIL picked up WAC and ACC college football and
basketball, including some Fresno State contests, to
augment a lineup of syndicated shows and MyNet fare.
Williams says it makes for must-watch TV. “Let’s face
it—sports programming is DVR-proof,” he says.

KSEE also tapped local Fresno State sports—airing
The Bulldog Insider, focused on the school’s teams—
on Sunday nights after NBC’s massive Sunday Night
Football
. The show was expanded to an hour this past
season. KSEE president/general
manager Matthew Rosenfeld credits
owner Granite for the station’s
new studio and set, and video
journalist strategy. “The company
has invested heavily in the station
the last couple of years,” he says.

For its part, KFRE offers Thursday
Night Showdown
, a slate of 10 high
school football games airing in hidef.
Season two recently wrapped,
with new graphics and onscreen statistics,
and three more games than
in season one. “We’re real proud of
what we did,” says Jack Peck, KFRE
vice president and general manager.

It’s a tall order trying to catch
KFSN. GM Adams says the station
thrives on blanketing the entire
market with the help of bureaus,
including reporters in Visalia and
Merced and the state capital, Sacramento. “We’re the
only ones with bureaus in those key areas,” Adams says.
“That enables us to cover late-breaking news.”

KFSN’s new 4 p.m. news features anchors Graciela
Moreno and Christine Park and interactive elements
that Kristie Gonzales, creative services director, says
strengthen the bond with viewers. “People give live feedback
through social networking,” Gonzales says. “It’s a
twist, we incorporate this into the basics of the show.”

Fresno TV chiefs remain hopeful that the frightening
unemployment rate will continue to subside. “It’s California—
there are a lot of people here,” says Peck. “When the
economy is moving along, it can be pretty amazing.”

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

What’s Working in Fresno-Visalia

Each quarter, a panel of community leaders assembles at KFSN headquarters for the ABC30 Advisory Council meeting. Ten people comprise the panel, representing a range of ethnic and geographic communities in the region; Dan Adams, KFSN president and general manager, refers to it as a “micromarket.” Community issues and potential story ideas are discussed. “They’re ambassadors for us,” Adams says. “We address their needs, and they provide feedback for us.”

Several other ABC-owned stations around the country hold community council meetings. KFSN’s was hatched in 2009, following former GM Bob Hall’s resignation after he made disparaging comments about minorities while under consideration for jury duty. Adams says improving community relations was a factor in creating the council. “It was a big contributor in why we launched this,” he says. “But it’s something I would always continue to do.” —MM

September
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