Market Eye: Big Change in Little Rock

New station owners coming and anchor seats shifting are suddenly the rage in central Arkansas

Why This Matters

Local Station, Statewide Reach


One benefit of Nexstar’s acquisitive ways has been the launch of a statewide Arkansas newscast on KARK and its siblings at noon each weekday. The 30-minute Arkansas Today, which launched in April, airs not only in Little Rock but on sister stations KNWA Fayetteville, KTVE El Dorado and KTAL Shreveport/Texarkana. “It’s the first time there’s ever been a true statewide news show,” says Mike Vaughn, KARK VP and general manager. “We touch all four corners of our state.”

The newscast features the top stories from each of the sister markets, along with robust coverage from the state capital. With that government building a short walk from the station, its news is easier to cover for KARK— and easier for politicians to pop in for an interview. “They love to go on and talk to every county in the state in one setting,” says Vaughn. —MM | @BCMikeMalone

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The goings-on are highly “volatile” these days, in the words of one
general manager, in typically staid Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark. There are anchor departures and market leader
changes, and few areas have experienced the
ongoing trend of consolidation as much as central
Arkansas. “There’s been a lot of change in
a market that has not seen much change in a
generation,” says Mike Vaughn, VP and general
manager at KARK-KARZ. “Everyone in
town has had to embrace change.”

In 2012, Mission Broadcasting, closely
aligned with Nexstar, bought Fox affiliate
KLRT and CW outlet KASN from Newport.
Early in 2013, the pair moved into a new downtown
facility with Nexstar stations KARKKARZ,
which air NBC and MyNetworkTV,
following a few dozen layoffs.

Bounce TV also airs out of Nexstar’s facility.
Unlike many duopolies, KARK and
KLRT keep distinct news brands. “They tell
different stories to different audiences in a
different way,” says Vaughn.

It remains a lively news operation. “They
still produce a boatload of news,” says Doug
Krile, executive director of the Arkansas
Broadcasters Association.

CBS affiliate KTHV is owned by Gannett,
which is acquiring the Belo group. The station
rebranded in February, swapping its longtime
“Today’s THV” brand for “THV 11.” Michael
Caplan, president and general manager, says
the station has “a fresher look and feel” now.

Liz Massey, KTHV anchor at 5, 6 and 10
p.m., departed the station on Oct. 3.

KATV’s About-’Face’

Allbritton’s KATV tapped KTHV newsroom
vet Nick Genty as news director in 2011,
and Genty set out to fix mornings. Pairing
former KTHV anchor Alyson Courtney with
weekend sports guy Chris Kane, a.m. took off,
and the rest of the day followed. A social media
push, which saw KATV grow its Facebook
followers from 15,000 to more than 120,000
in a couple years, helped too. “We’re getting
viewers involved in what we do,” Genty says.

Sinclair is acquiring Allbritton, which may
affect KATV. “Obviously there’s going to be
some changes,” Krile says.

KATV and KTHV were neck and neck
in total-day household ratings in the May
sweeps. KATV won morning and early evening
news and grabbed the 10 p.m. crown with
an 11 household rating/24.5 share, ahead of
KTHV’s 7.8/17.1. KTHV won primetime.

Comcast is DMA No. 56’s main pay-TV
operator. Little Rock is home to the African-
American-targeted Soul of the South channel,
which operates from Equity Broadcasting’s
former facility and plans to acquire
indie KMYA. KATV was the market’s revenue
leader in 2012, per BIA/Kelsey, its estimated
$23.1 million ahead of KTHV’s $19.3 million.

Little Rock’s capital status means a stable
economy and lots of news. Rivers and mountains
are not far away. “I don’t know that
you could want much more of the outdoor
lifestyle than you have here,” says Caplan.

Time will tell how the ownership grabs
affect the pecking order. “The six-month
snapshot of what the market will look like,”
says Vaughn, “will probably be dramatically
different than it is now.”