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New Mexico's New Blood

LIN puts stamp on Albuquerque-Santa Fe market 9/07/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Top-20 station group LIN TV added some spice to the Albuquerque-Santa Fe market when it grabbed CBS affiliate KRQE two years ago, then Raycom's Fox affiliate KASA last summer. Despite talk of LIN shopping its stations, so far the duopoly is serving the broadcaster well: KRQE easily won primetime and late news and split the total day crown in the July sweeps, and there are ambitious plans to grow the news output on KASA.

Bill Anderson, President and G.M. of KRQE/KASA, says the plan for KASA over the past year was simply stabilizing the news (the Fox newscasts bear the KRQE 13 brand). Now it's time to bump KASA up a notch, starting with a morning newscast in early 2008. “There's really good morning news in the market,” he says, “and we think there's an appetite for more.”

The Albuquerque-Santa Fe market is an eclectic one. Covering 160,000 square miles and touching parts of five states, it's considered the second largest geographic DMA in the country, behind Salt Lake City. Satellite TV penetration is about double the average market, owing to the various mountains, foothills and canyons that make cable operators' lives difficult. Emerging businesses include high tech, aircraft production and home building—the latter growing with the population. Fueled by Hispanic births, Albuquerque has moved up to Nielsen's #45 DMA.

“We were #52 when I got here 15 years ago,” says Mike Burgess, V.P./G.M. of Hubbard's NBC outlet KOB. “We think the future is extremely bright for Albuquerque.”

The market took in $114 million last year, according to BIA Financial, with KRQE snagging $26.625 million. “Our story has really been consistency,” says Anderson. “We're not about stunting and trying to create immediate gratification. We're trying to compete as hard as we can inside and outside of the ratings books.”

Runners-up in the 2006 revenue race were Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate KOAT ($24.3 million), KOB ($23.5 million) and KASA ($13.8 million). Acme owns the CW and MyNetworkTV outlets, and Entravision's Univision station is a hit with Spanish speakers.

KOB was the market leader just a few years ago, but thanks in part to NBC's underperforming prime, has seen its revenue share drop each year since 2002, according to BIA. Burgess introduced Good Day New Mexico, following the extra hour of Today, this week, and added a 6:30 p.m. news in July. “That's done pretty well—pretty much second or third in that period,” he says.

Over at KOAT, which split the total day ratings crown with KRQE and won early and evening news in July, president/general manager Mary Lynn Roper knows the market as well as anyone. A New Mexico native, she's been in the local news business for over three decades. She's pushing KOAT to grow online, with live video and user-generated photos featuring viewers' pets and babies.

But the LIN pair says it's just starting to flex its muscles online. KASA sports the MyFoxNewMexico Web branding, and KRQE is working with World Now on its digital strategy. “It's been zero to 60 in the last 60 days,” says Anderson. “We've fully integrated the Web into our newsroom environment, and are looking to break news on both screens all day long.”

Next: Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.

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