Sun Burn in Phoenix

Once hot, market fights economic woes

Phoenix, one of the great boom towns not long ago, has hit hard times. The market has one of the nation's highest foreclosure rates, hammering advertising categories like furniture and floor coverings. A “spooked” populace, in one general manager's words, isn't likely to make big purchases like an automobile anytime soon.

Yet GMs remain optimistic. The population continues to grow, and some think Phoenix will climb past Detroit for the No. 11 DMA rank. “All the reasons why Phoenix grew—the cost of living, the weather—none of that has changed,” says KPHO VP/General Manager Ed Munson.

KPHO, KTVK and KPNX began sharing a helicopter a few weeks ago; each is saving considerable expense with the arrangement. “It would've been unheard of two years ago,” says KPNX President/General Manager John Misner. “Now we have a common enemy in the economy.”

Phoenix introduced Local People Meters in April. Gannett's KPNX, an NBC affiliate, holds the ratings crown. It virtually split the total day household ratings title in November with Fox O&O KSAZ, while winning evening news and a tight late news race. Meredith owns CBS affiliate KPHO, Scripps owns ABC outlet KNXV, Belo has independent KTVK and CW affiliate KASW, and Fox also owns MyNetworkTV outlet KUTP. Almost 28% of the market is of Hispanic origin, says BIA Financial; Spanish-language options are Telemundo's KTAZ and Univision's KTVW.

Baseball's spring training is underway, and the market welcomes the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians for the first time. “The spring weather is great,” says KSAZ/KUTP VP/General Manager Pat Nevin. “People are excited to see the Cactus League in action.”

The stations have been making news of late. Meredith will hub multiple stations' back-office functions out of KPHO's facility. KSAZ, which wins morning news, has extended that program another hour. KTVK is growing its new 9 p.m. nightly news, while KNXV offers users money advice with its Financial Survival Guide on abc15.com.

KTAZ switched off analog Feb. 17, which President/General Manager Araceli De Leon says was “seamless.” The station gave away as many as 165 converter boxes, and even Fed Ex'd a few to the more desperate viewers. “In some cases, they're addicted to novelas,” De Leon says. “In other cases, they just want to stay informed.”

The KPNX staff, meanwhile, is grieving along with sports anchor Bruce Cooper, whose son Marquis was among the three football players lost off the coast of Florida.

Stations are sticking to their guns until business picks up. “It's a very competitive market, with lots of stations doing lots of news,” says KTVK/KASW President/General Manager Nick Nicholson. “We're just trying to weather the economic environment.”

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