Vegas Stations Roll 7s With New Owners

Election influx, sports and enterprise keep roulette wheel spinning

MARKET EYE: LAS VEGAS

RECENT NEWS STORIES: 4.8 earthquake (May), Cosmopolitan Hotel fire (July), Dems debate (October).

LOWDOWN: While still not out of the woods, Las Vegas is recovering from its recession woes. Unemployment is down from 14% to 7%. The area is reinventing itself, with construction in commercial and residential districts and the Strip. TV stations have a big political year to look forward to in 2016, with early caucuses, an open Senate seat and what should be a close presidential race in Nevada.

STATIONS (OWNER/AFFILIATION): WKLAS Las Vegas (Nexstar/CBS); KVVU Henderson (Meredith/Fox); KSNV Las Vegas (Sinclair/NBC); KTNV Las Vegas (Scripps/ABC).

OWNER/AFFILIATION CHANGES: Nexstar bought KLAS from Landmark Media Enterprises in February for $145 million. Scripps took over as owner of KTNV on April 1 after its merger with Journal Communications was completed. Sinclair acquired KSNV from Intermountain West last year and in turn sold the licensing, but not the programming, of KVMY to Howard Stirk Holdings.

KLAS LAS VEGAS (NEXSTAR/CBS)

WHAT’S NEW: The station added a daily sportscast Nov. 2 and new weather, traffic and news apps. Former KSNV general manager Lisa Howfield took over as president and GM in August.

INSIGHTS FROM THE FRONT LINES: “(Nexstar is) really keeping the focus on local. I didn’t want to step into a position where we get cookie-cutter programming coming down to fit the market. I like how Nexstar is thinking,” Howfield says.

WHAT’S ON: In October, KLAS introduced Politics Now, a weekly program that is a “fresh approach to politics,” Howfield says. The half-hour, hosted by political reporter Patrick Walker and Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius, features interviews with politicians out in the field. They spoke to presidential candidate Marco Rubio for the premiere episode, followed by Hillary Clinton the following week. Howfield says a goal is to get politicians out of their comfort zone, away from a table. “Our vision is to get them to walk on the Strip or out to Lake Mead, to show them things in the market and in Nevada,” she says. “We’re looking to be unique and different.” In addition to its regular broadcast Sundays at 5:30, Politics Now has a segment each day in the regular newscast. “We want to own politics,” Howfield says.

KVVU HENDERSON (MEREDITH/FOX)

WHAT’S NEW: Dave Hall, who spent 11 years as a sports and morning anchor at KVVU, returned after a three-year sojourn in Kansas City to coanchor morning news. KVVU has extended its news to weekend mornings with two hours a day Saturday and Sunday, and VP/GM Todd Brown hinted at more expansions next year. The station also recently launched its FOX5 Mobile app and a weather app.

INSIGHTS FROM THE FRONT LINES: “We brand ourselves Local Las Vegas. We’re so active in the community with our programs. We really lean on local stories, local entertainment. We want to be the local station,” Brown says.

1201_LocalTV_chart.jpgWHAT’S ON: KVVU produces nine hours a week of local lifestyle programming with the More Show, which is in its eighth year and continues to expand, with weekend and access editions.

DID YOU KNOW? KVVU was the first station on the scene when a fire broke out at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on a Saturday morning in July. The station turned to social media to report the story and viewers responded, sending in pictures and videos from their rooms and other spots at the hotel.

KTNV LAS VEGAS (SCRIPPS/ABC)

WHAT’S NEW: After Scripps took over, the station added more staff in the newsroom, digital sales and digital content. KTNV also added new traffic graphics. The Scripps station launched its Chopper 13 into the air in late October, the second helicopter in the market but the only one with HD and other technological advantages.

DID YOU KNOW? KTNV receives 400-600 emails from viewers each month as a result of its brand, “You Ask. We Investigate.” Story pitches range from unpainted crosswalks to taxpayer spending for programs, says Jim Prather, executive VP and general manager. “They’ve led to us breaking a lot of stories and uncovering a lot of things we would not have known about,” he says. The emails generate 25 to 50 stories a month. For some, general assignment reporters make follow-up calls to verify information; others get turned over to an investigative unit. “It really becomes a very functional system of getting news tips,” Prather says. “We have a strong investigative image.”

SPOTLIGHT

KVVU IS A HIGH-PERFORMING Fox affiliate, says Todd Brown, VP and general manager, but the Meredith station gets unfairly associated with Fox News Channel and other Fox stations. Brown says ABC, CBS and NBC traditionally take the greatest shares of political ads, with Fox often a distant fourth. When KVVU execs makes sales calls, they have to make their case amid the downturn in Fox’s primetime performance.

“We want to get our fair share,” Brown says. “A lot of times, we have to explain why [our] Fox affiliate performs [and] indexes higher than most.”

While plenty of Fox stations’ ratings are a distant fourth, KVVU posts solid numbers, doing particularly well with political undecideds and slicing right down the middle in demos. “We have to break through that barrier,” says Kevin James, general sales manager. “We have to do a better job of telling the individual story of our market, how we reach independent voters, how we trend a little younger.”

They also have to draw a line between them and Fox News, the unconnected cable channel.

“We’re not Fox News,” Brown says. “Sometimes we get stuck with that moniker, but we’re separate from Fox News.”