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Let 'Freedom' Ring

MyNetworkTV outlet rebrands; other outlets in heart of Oklahoma prosper 4/25/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Oklahoma City

It’s a full 500 miles from Oklahoma City to St. Louis, but the central Oklahoma market is mad for St. Louis Rams football. That’s because local hero Sam Bradford, a Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Oklahoma, plays quarterback for the Rams. The Bradford connection compelled John Rossi, general manager of KOCB, to grab Rams preseason games for the CW affiliate. “People love Sam,” says Rossi. “He’s a great young man, and Oklahoma is proud of him.”

Oklahoma City is traditionally a Dallas Cowboys market (Dallas is about 200 miles south), but regular-season ratings for Rams games on Fox affiliate KOKH come close to those for Cowboys contests. Rossi supplements preseason pigskin fare on KOCB (assuming labor problems don’t intrude on this summer’s NFL preseason) with Big 12 basketball and the 7-on-7 state football championships in July. “We try to localize the product as best we can,” he says. —MM

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KFOR has made big strides in Oklahoma City, especially after Nielsen
ironed out a ratings glitch a few years back. And the NBC affiliate’s MyNetworkTV
sister outlet hopes to increase its footprint, too. On April 11, KAUT
OK43 relaunched as Freedom 43 TV, with a special focus on the region’s
substantial military presence and the issues of interest to that group.


Jim Boyer, president and general manager of the Local
TV-owned duopoly, says DMA No. 45 is every bit as
red as the red state that surrounds it. The station will
offer straight news at the top of the newscast, followed
by stories targeted to military personnel and families.
“KAUT has struggled with its identity
forever,” says Boyer. “We thought,
what can we do to light up a station
that’s No. 6 in a seven-station market?
If we continued to do what we’re doing,
nothing would change.”

Sibling outlet KFOR has not had
similar identity problems. Despite getting
little help from primetime, where
it is running fourth in the market,
KFOR won the morning and earlyevening
news household ratings races
in February and took a super-close late
news contest, with its 12.5 rating/19
share at 10 p.m. ahead of CBS affiliate
KWTV’s 11.9/18. Total day ratings
were extremely close too, with KFOR
on top and KOCO and KWTV within
a few tenths of a ratings point.

KWTV, owned by Griffin, won
primetime easily in February, ahead
of Hearst TV’s ABC outlet KOCO and
Sinclair’s Fox affiliate, KOKH.

Boyer says KFOR is tops in the
country in late news among NBC affiliates in metered
markets. The station thrives on a well-established corps
of anchors, he says, along with a full-court press approach
to weather, which goes over well along Tornado
Alley. “We dominate weather coverage,” says Boyer. “In
Oklahoma, that’s a really important attribute.”

Local TV and Sinclair (the latter with a Fox-CW pair)
own duopolies in Oklahoma City, while Tyler Media
Corp. has two Spanish-language stations in Telemundo
outlet KTUZ and Univision affiliate KUOK. Family
Broadcasting owns the independent KSBI.

The Oklahoma City economy is holding up well, with
unemployment levels relatively low. Station general
managers say the market traditionally stays pretty level.
“It’s never been a market of wide swings,” says Brent
Hensley, president/GM of KOCO. “When everything
went south around the rest of the country, it didn’t drop
as precipitously here.”

As Boyer notes, the military has a major presence in
Oklahoma City, including Tinker Air Force Base. The
state government and the oil industry are major—not to
mention stable—employers as well. “Between the energy
companies and the state capital, it makes it a pretty darn
good place to live,” says John Rossi, GM at KOKH-KOCB.

In addition to KAUT, other stations are trying new
things to shake up the pecking order. Perhaps none
has been more dramatic than little KSBI: In November,
the station’s new management scrapped news, weather,
sports, and the large majority of its paid programming.
The indie now features an all-entertainment lineup, including
live talk shows and programs dedicated to everything
from dogs to music to rodeo. “It’s anything and
everything that goes on in Oklahoma and Oklahoma
City,” says Vince Orza, KSBI president/CEO. “We’re not
where we want to be yet, but going from 0 ratings to 2s
and 3s, we feel like we’re on the right track.”

KOKH is one of the rare stations around the U.S. to
offer live news to users’ mobile phones, part of a Sinclair-
driven initiative. The station has been simulcasting
all of its newscasts to equipped smartphones for about
a year. “We don’t have a helicopter, so it gives us something
else to differentiate ourselves,” says Rossi, “and get
our news into people’s hands.”

Hensley raves about adding the
entertainment digi-net This TV to
KOCO’s digital tier, in place of Accuweather,
in January; he calls it a
“huge product improvement.” The
station has also expanded news in
several slots, including kicking off
a daily 4:30 a.m., an 8 a.m. hour
on Saturdays and Sundays, and a
5 p.m. program on Saturdays. One
slot where KOCO isn’t looking
to add news is 4 p.m. after Oprah
Winfrey
leaves its air in September;
Hensley plans to slot in a syndicated
show—perhaps Dr. Oz or Anderson
Cooper
’s rookie show. “We try to find
those areas that are underserved,”
Hensley says, “rather than jumping
in areas that are overpopulated.”

KWTV is run by Rob Krier, who is
also COO and VP of parent Griffin
Communications. Besides its main
Website, KWTV offers online sports
page OKBlitz.com.

Local TV’s local chapter features no less than four online
destinations: the KFOR and KAUT sites, a lifestyle
site, and the weather-centric 4Warn.com. With Oklahoma
City’s economy humming along, Boyer thinks it may
be time for his Freedom station to fly. “Oklahoma came
out of the recession pretty well, relatively speaking,” he
says. “The local business has really bounced back.”

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

What’s Working in Oklahoma City

It’s a full 500 miles from Oklahoma City to St. Louis, but the central Oklahoma market is mad for St. Louis Rams football. That’s because local hero Sam Bradford, a Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Oklahoma, plays quarterback for the Rams. The Bradford connection compelled John Rossi, general manager of KOCB, to grab Rams preseason games for the CW affiliate. “People love Sam,” says Rossi. “He’s a great young man, and Oklahoma is proud of him.”

Oklahoma City is traditionally a Dallas Cowboys market (Dallas is about 200 miles south), but regular-season ratings for Rams games on Fox affiliate KOKH come close to those for Cowboys contests. Rossi supplements preseason pigskin fare on KOCB (assuming labor problems don’t intrude on this summer’s NFL preseason) with Big 12 basketball and the 7-on-7 state football championships in July. “We try to localize the product as best we can,” he says. —MM

 

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