Market Eye: One Way to Beat the Traffic

KABC’s drone’s-eye view ramps up L.A. arms race

The pitched ground battle between the street-smart Los Angeles stations may be shifting to the skies. KABC has received the OK to use drones on multiple occasions—for unique aerials tied to the Academy Awards and for what the station called “Drone Day” last month, with footage from the market’s more remote corners. There is serious red tape to clear before deployments, but president/general manager Cheryl Fair likes the initial results. “It’s the first step for us,” she says.

KABC is a model station, but the competition senses it’s a good time to grab a ratings point from the leader. “KABC is not the same place it was,” says Steve Mauldin, KCBS-KCAL president/GM.

KABC’s Fair was promoted in February from her news director position. She notes an “incredible volatility” with the Nielsens, but says a tireless community approach and savvy digital strategy, including 1.4 million Facebook fans, keep KABC “the most-watched station in Southern California.” A Twitter initiative, #ABC7Eyewitness, gives the community a new way to communicate with the station, whether it’s sharing tips and video or sounding off on news stories.

0602_MarketEye_Chart.jpgKABC swept the news and primetime household ratings in the May sweeps. KNBC has muscled into second in several contests. KTLA took 6 a.m. news among viewers 25-54, and Univision’s KMEX seized the demo in primetime, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Everyone is innovating. KNBC and Telemundo-aligned KVEA have an “integrated” newsroom, says Steve Carlston, KNBC president/GM. KNBC has a 12-person investigative team; coupled with KVEA’s Telemundo Responde, it makes for a formidable watchdog. “Together we dominate the market [on] investigative and solving people’s problems,” says Carlston.

The KCBS-KCAL site has a 90-second news brief on the home page. “That’s really been a driver for our site,” says Mauldin.

Fox-owned KTTV-KCOP is approaching summer test season. A pair of husband-and-wife duos are behind Boris and Nicole and Ice & Coco. The test formula “has paid dividends for our group and our station,” says Kevin Hale, VP/GM.

Fully 46% of the market claims Hispanic origin, says BIA/Kelsey. KMEX did a “complete revamp” of its 5-7 a.m. news starting June 1. “We made it a morning lifestyle show that has news,” says Luis Patino, senior VP and general manager. The option to integrate sponsors factored into the decision.

KVEA launched a 5:30 p.m. news last November; it alao brought back 5 a.m. news. last year. “That helps us address the issues our viewers need to hear about,” says Celia Chavez, president and general manager.

KTLA has a monster 4-10 a.m. weekday local block, airs 3 p.m. news and has a powerhouse 10 p.m. newscast too. Don Corsini, president and general manager, cites the “local connection felt so strongly by our entire news team.”

With so many strong players, the L.A. news competition is as heated as any Oscars race. “It’s a market where it’s sweeps every night,” says Patino. “It’s a daily fight with our newscasts.”

SWAN SONG FOR HALE; SALUTING STEPHANIE

Kevin Hale, KTTV-KCOP VP/GM, is retiring Aug. 17. He’ll work on the songwriting skills he picked up during a previous post in Nashville. “I’ll see if I can get a bluegrass or country artist to cut some of my songs,” says Hale, 64. “It’s a hobby, but I’ll see if I can take it to the next level.” No replacement has been named.

At KABC, the new news director is Rob Elmore, formerly of WTVD Raleigh. Cheryl Fair, KABC president/GM, notes his “gravitas and experience.”

At KCBS-KCAL, but one mainstay of GM Steve Mauldin’s tenure is Stephanie’s Day, an autism awareness event inspired by his daughter. Mauldin launched similar events in Miami and Dallas. This year’s goes down in L.A. June 20. “It’s terrific to have this opportunity for special needs families to come together,” Mauldin says, “and learn about the many resources that are available to them.”