Market Eye: Some Like It Hot

Aloha from Oahu—life in DMA No. 69 is sunny, and the stations’ race is tight

Raycom has enviable resources in Honolulu, and its Hawaii News Now operation is putting them to good use to address a local societal ill. The three-station outfit, made up of KGMB, KHNL and KFVE, has partnered with the Star-Advertiser newspaper to address homelessness in unique ways, including investigative reporting, a summit bringing together community officials, and editorials from Rick Blangiardi, VP and general manager. “We’re shining a lot of light on this,” Blangiardi says. “These stories need to be told.”

The news race in Honolulu is tightening considerably. KHON was news leader years ago, and after an ownership change, is intent on reclaiming its crown. LIN Media bought the station from New Vision in 2012, and later merged with Media General. Kristina Lockwood, president and general manager, says the change has been great for the Fox station. “Corporate has committed a lot of resources in terms of training and development for the staff,” she says. “It’s quite amazing how quickly KHON has risen over the last year or so.”

KHON has a new 9 p.m. newscast and an “accountability journalism” credo driving its investigative team, where Gina Mangieri tackles the big stories. The branding statement is “Working for Hawaii.” “That encompasses what we do every day in the newsroom,” says Lockwood, “and throughout every other department.”

0803_MarketEye_Chart.jpgKITV has moved forward on the wave of a “More Local” theme, a tagline that appears on the air and throughout the station. Andrew Jackson, who announced his departure as president and general manager on Aug. 12, said it means more senior leadership with Hawaii roots and a more Hawaii-centric content focus. “It’s authentic; it’s genuine,” says Jackson, now executive VP at Anthology Marketing Group.

The statement carries over to the sales side, he adds, where an HVAC service or medical center may boast that it is the more local option in a market where roots count for a lot.

The Hearst TV bosses won’t get to visit Honolulu for much longer; the group announced in May it is selling KITV to SJL Broadcasting. It is expected to close later this year. George Lilly, SJL principal, likes the station’s ABC affiliation while its midsize status also fits with the SJL profile.

In addition to Raycom’s KGMB-KHNL, a CBS-NBC pair, it has a shared services agreement with MCG Capital for MyNetworkTV station KFVE. Media General owns KHON, which airs The CW on a sub-channel. The primary subscription TV operator is Time Warner Cable.

The stations are hustling. KITV has choice syndicated shows such as Ellen, Dr. Oz and Steve Harvey, a network with momentum, and local franchises such as “Where You Live,” which finds the culture and history in Hawaii’s less traveled nooks. Some segments get a primetime slot, such as one that aired at 7 p.m. on Aug. 21. “Most folks have no idea about the hidden history of their neighborhood,” says Jackson. “It’s proven hugely popular.”

With more parity in the ratings, Blangiardi is quite vocal about Nielsen’s efforts to measure viewing in DMA No. 69. “Totally out of sync,” he says, citing a steadily declining response rate among Nielsen homes. (Nielsen says it is actively working on ways to enhance measurement in all its local markets.) KGMB, abetted by CBS’ primetime (tops in the market) and Hawaii News Now’s promotional heft, won total-day household ratings in the May sweeps, while it, KHON and KITV were virtually tied in terms of adults 25-54. KGMB won 6 a.m. households and KHON took adults 25-54. KHON was tops in early evening news, and put up a 7.5 HH rating/22.8 share at 10 p.m., while KGMB mustered a 7/21.2. KHON won more handily in the late-news demo with a 3.8/24.1.

The Honolulu economy, bolstered by the military and, of course, tourism driven by its awe-inspiring beachscapes, is rolling. Yet living in paradise comes at a considerable cost, and thousands can’t afford basic housing. “It’s the overriding No. 1 issue in our state,” says Mark Platte, Hawaii News Now news director.

Platte speaks of a more “hard-hitting” news operation than when he came on board in 2010. Raycom’s virtual triopoly has a real fight on its hands. KHON’s Lockwood, a Hawaii native, likes where her station is at. “It had fallen on tough times under a previous ownership,” she says. “It’s very exciting to see us come back and grow and be a strong competitor.”

HONOLULU TV ‘TITANS’

While the 18 San Francisco Giants games on KITV’s dot-two may stretch the perception of a home game, preseason Tennessee Titans games on KHON’s sub-channel, an arrangement with sister Media General station WKRN Nashville, takes the concept even further from home. Here’s the local connection: Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, is a Honolulu native. “It’s a really big deal to have someone from Hawaii play in the NFL,” says Kristina Lockwood, KHON president and GM. “We look for these kinds of opportunities that viewers would want.”

That includes KHON’s new 8 a.m. lifestyle show Living808, a mix of food, fitness, shopping and “interesting people in the community,” says Lockwood. Other local programming initiatives, she adds, may be in the works.

Local plays well everywhere, but may have greater significance in this distant island market. Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii News Now VP/general manager, suggests it’s the enterprise content, such as a recent story on a cabdriver kickback scheme involving so-called “mahalo money,” that will win the day in Honolulu. “This is not, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ here,” he says. “We work hard to get at the enterprise.”