Vegas NBC Affiliate Stacks Chips on Local

“I don’t take any great pride in running someone else’s program,” says KSNV owner Rogers | @BCMikeMalone

While September always spells change on a TV station’s schedule, perhaps no
station in the nation has a more drastic upheaval in the works than KSNV Las Vegas. The station is continuing to make the
break from syndication staples, including
Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! this fall,
filling the holes by doubling down on local
fare: Vegas news, Vegas public affairs,
Vegas talk.

Why This Matters
Stations nationwide are weighing the benefits of adding local programming at the expense of costly, but well-rated, syndicated shows.

It is a paradigm-exploding strategy, but
as Las Vegas continues to grow, Lisa Howfield,
KSNV VP/general manager—and the daughter
of a Vegas cocktail waitress and a blackjack dealer—
believes the NBC affiliate is on the right path. “TV
stations have had the same business model forever,”
she says. “The way we’re doing it—really heavying up
on our local presence—is what we believe we have to
do to thrive in the future.”

KSNV hits the fall with Rachael Ray, The Doctors
and Dr. Phil in syndication, and says farewell to Phil
next fall. It’s not hard to imagine a day when KSNV is
syndication-free, and Jim Rogers, KSNV owner, hopes
it happens in his lifetime. “I don’t take any
great pride in running someone else’s programming,”
he says. “The only thing we
can do that everyone else can’t do is local
news. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! are

TV and Philanthropy

Rogers, whose Intermountain West also owns
KRNV Reno and KENV Elko (Nev.) is a unique
owner. At 74, he’s a celebrated philanthropist and a
dogged defender of the First Amendment. He’s also a
seller of TV stations; in recent months, he’s agreed to
sell KYMA Yuma (Ariz.) and Idaho’s KPVI Pocatello
and KXTF Twin Falls. Independent owners have
been gobbled up of late, but Rogers insists he has no
plans in the near term to sell his remaining stations.
“Where would I go?” he quips. “What would I do
all day?”

A proud son of Las Vegas, Rogers’ jokes belie a
fierce determination to cover the ever-shifting market.
As recently as 2005, Vegas was DMA No. 51. Despite
a brutal spell of home foreclosures and unemployment
since then, it’s now No. 40—and a stunning No. 27 in
revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey. “I would’ve liked
to have [scrapped syndication] 20 years ago, but the
volume of interesting news in Nevada—especially Las
Vegas—was not there,” he says. “I want to have some
impact on my community.”

KSNV also parted ways with Nielsen last fall, citing
high cost and low sample size, leaving some to wonder
if cost cutting is driving the moves. Rogers vehemently
denies this, while Howfield says Rentrak has been a
worthy ratings substitute. “They’ve done a great job
meeting with the agencies and familiarizing them with
[Rentrak’s] product,” she says. “It hasn’t created an
issue for us.”

Wheel and Jeopardy! slide over to leader KLAS.

KSNV is hardly the only station replacing costly
syndication shows with homegrown fare. A year ago,
Scripps made a splash by replacing Wheel and Jeopardy!
in several markets with a homegrown game show
and a newsmagazine. Last month, Dave Lougee, president
of Gannett Broadcasting, acknowledged that the
expanding group is developing shows for multiple dayparts.
While they inevitably post lower ratings than established
syndicated shows, locally produced programming
means full ad inventory for the stations. The extra
avails come in handy when the political spending hits.

Laura Clark, senior VP at Frank N. Magid Associates,
says the challenges for KSNV are keeping programming
high quality amidst the expansion, and getting
viewers accustomed to watching news in non-typical
time slots. “I think this is something that everyone is
trying to do,” she says. “They’re just not necessarily
doing it on this scale.”

Staffing Up in Vegas

KSNV has added around 15 employees and has built
a second set and master control room. The station offers
Wake Up With the Wagners, the anchors a married
couple, from 4:30-7 a.m., noon news, a 12:30 political
talk show and local news from 4 to 6 p.m. NBC’s
Nightly News
leads into the public affairs show Ralston
at 6:30, before more local news at 7 p.m.

“News 3” staffers are up for the new challenges,
believes Howfield. “The feeling around the station is
strong—there’s a lot of positive energy,” she says. “I
think people are on board with the plan.”

Every local broadcast peer she speaks with has
something of an extreme reaction to the strategy.
“They say, ‘You’re crazy, it’s risky, I can’t believe you’re
doing this,’ or they say, ‘More power to you—that’s
what local television is all about,’” Howfield says. “It’s
one or the other—no one is in-between.”