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Market Eye: Battle-Tested, Back Again

Television stations in Oklahoma City are nothing short of a lifeline when tornadoes strike 9/16/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Mister Twister Steps From Green Screen

What’s Working in Oklahoma City

Nothing short of a weather “God” has stepped off the set in Oklahoma City, as Gary England, longtime chief meteorologist at KWTV, has moved to a corporate role. England, 73, was a rock during the tornado coverage in May and became a rock star afterward, highlighted by a lengthy feature in The New York Times Magazine called “The Weather God of Oklahoma” and an appearance on The Colbert Report on Sept. 4. “It’s been pretty wild, pretty crazy, pretty busy,” says England. “But it’s a lot of fun at this point in my life.”

England is now VP of corporate relations and weather development at KWTV parent Griffin Communications, studying long-term weather trends and doing public outreach. David Payne came over from KFOR to succeed him at KWTV. “He’s seen more tornadoes than anybody,” Griffin COO Rob Krier says of the veteran storm chaser (Twitter handle: @tornadopayne). “I can’t say we won’t miss a beat, but we’re poised to do well.” —MM

mmalone@nbmedia.com | @BCMikeMalone

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The twisters that leveled Moore, Okla., in May did a reported $2
billion in damage, and the psychological cost is immeasurable. But TV station chiefs in Oklahoma City say life
is surprisingly back to normal: Homes being
rebuilt, people going about their business, TV
viewing back to where it was.

One hears the word “resilient” a lot when
people describe residents. “Our promos talk
about the resilience of Oklahomans: ‘The
weather is tough, but our people are tougher,’”
says Wes Milbourn, president and general
manager at KFOR/KAUT. “We just keep
fighting back, and fighting back harder.”

Wall-to-wall weather coverage means lost ad
revenue, but the stations made some of it back
from the auto dealers and furniture outlets as
people replaced and rebuilt. “Recovery efforts
and rebuilding does spur the economy a little
bit,” says Rob Krier, general manager at KWTV
and COO at parent Griffin Communications.

Griffin has stations in Oklahoma City and
Tulsa; KWTV took the OKC revenue race last
year, according to BIA/Kelsey, its estimated
$31.3 million ahead of KFOR’s $29 million.
“We market ourselves as Oklahoma’s Own,”
says Krier. “We’ve always been here, and always
been local.”

NBC affiliate KFOR had a huge May
sweeps, winning total-day household ratings
in DMA No. 41, along with morning, early
evening and late news—the latter with an
11.4 household rating/17.7 share, just ahead
of KWTV’s 11/17.2. KWTV won primetime.

KFOR will become part of Tribune when the
company’s acquisition of Local TV is finalized.
Milbourn does not see life changing drastically.
“We’ve had a relationship with Tribune almost
since the inception of Local TV,” he says.

Local TV also owns independent KAUT,
which airs news at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Hearst
Television has ABC affiliate KOCO. Sinclair
owns Fox-CW duo KOKH-KOCB. Family
Broadcasting Group’s KSBI took over the
MyNetworkTV affiliation last year. The
Spanish-language options include Tyler Media’s
Telemundo station KTUZ and Univision
affiliate KUOK. Cox is Oklahoma City’s main
subscription TV operator.

KWTV and KFOR start their newscasts at
4 a.m. weekdays. KOCO this year promoted
Bryan Keating to sports director and tapped
Rebecca Gaylord of KOAT Albuquerque as
news director. “Rebecca fits what we need in
our newsroom and fits our brand: Live, Local,
Late-Breaking,” says Brent Hensley, president/general manager.

KSBI, featuring one of the most eclectic local
lineups in the nation (“Station to Station,”
Nov. 19, 2012), debuts game show Wild Card at
6:30 weeknights in October. The station is doing
Oklahoma Live! 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at the state
fair this week, along with a live music show at 6.

“It’s TV the way it was in the ’50s, ’60s and
’70s, before the network did everything for
you,” says Vince Orza, president/CEO of KSBI.

A revitalized downtown and world-class
NBA team the Thunder have given people
reasons other than severe weather to talk
about Oklahoma City. There will be other
tornadoes, but residents—and the news
crews—are ready. “We seem to get more
than our share,” says Krier, “but we’re pretty
good at getting back on our feet.”

Mister Twister Steps From Green Screen

What’s Working in Oklahoma City

Nothing short of a weather “God” has stepped off the set in Oklahoma City, as Gary England, longtime chief meteorologist at KWTV, has moved to a corporate role. England, 73, was a rock during the tornado coverage in May and became a rock star afterward, highlighted by a lengthy feature in The New York Times Magazine called “The Weather God of Oklahoma” and an appearance on The Colbert Report on Sept. 4. “It’s been pretty wild, pretty crazy, pretty busy,” says England. “But it’s a lot of fun at this point in my life.”

England is now VP of corporate relations and weather development at KWTV parent Griffin Communications, studying long-term weather trends and doing public outreach. David Payne came over from KFOR to succeed him at KWTV. “He’s seen more tornadoes than anybody,” Griffin COO Rob Krier says of the veteran storm chaser (Twitter handle: @tornadopayne). “I can’t say we won’t miss a beat, but we’re poised to do well.” —MM

 

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