Residents say the Oklahoma capital has all the trappings of a big-league market—except a big-league sports team. But after Ford Center became the home arena for the New Orleans Hornets for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina, station managers believe they showed the market was ready for its own NBA franchise. When the Seattle SuperSonics were purchased by Oklahoma City billionaire Clay Bennett last year, local hoops fans' dreams became that much more of a reality, though Seattle is trying to keep the team right where it is.
Moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City “would help elevate us to a big-time city,” says KWTV VP/General Manager Rob Krier. With storied college teams from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, a pro franchise would give Oklahoma City's newsrooms even more to report on.
Station managers say the market is a news hotbed as it is, with innovative parent companies and a voracious viewership. “It's a highly competitive market, not to mention a tremendous weather market,” says Jim Boyer, the new president/general manager of KFOR/KAUT. “Lots of people watch news.”
The local TV market earned $121.4 million in 2006, according to BIA Financial, up from $115.2 million the year before. Griffin's CBS affiliate KWTV grabbed $36.1 million, ahead of Local TV LLC's NBC outlet KFOR ($29.1 million), Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate KOCO ($24 million) and Sinclair's Fox outlet KOKH ($13 million). Sinclair also owns CW affiliate KOCB, and Local owns the MyNetworkTV outlet KAUT.
With a revitalized downtown, Oklahoma City business is “through the roof,” says one general manager, and the numbers back him up. While it's the No. 46 DMA, Oklahoma City ranks No. 44 in terms of revenue. Energy has long been the backbone of the economy, but business has diversified. “Oil is obviously huge, but we don't rely exclusively on that anymore,” says Krier. “It's automobiles, telecommunications, casinos.”
KWTV captured total day, primetime and morning news titles in July, and its 13.5 rating/21 share topped KFOR (13/20) in late news by a hair. (Krier says it's the top-rated late news of all U.S. metered markets.) The key is consistency and community connection, says Krier, an Oklahoma native. He cites chief meteorologist Gary England's mastery of the tricky regional weather patterns (think: tornadoes, heavy rains and stultifying triple-digit heat), and the local roots of not only the anchors, but the parent company, Oklahoma City-based Griffin Communications. “[President/CEO] David Griffin is always putting money back into the community,” says Krier.
At the Sinclair duopoly, General Manager John Rossi is adding new syndicated newsmag TMZ and comedies Family Guy and Two and a Half Men come fall. Rossi also introduced a 6 a.m. - 9 a.m. daily newscast on KOKH in April, and is amping up its newscasts. “We're taking a different approach,” he says. “We've Foxified our news.”
With The Oprah Winfrey Show as a lead-in, KOCO won the 5 p.m. news battle.
It's also been jazzing up koco.com with features like a gallery of dramatic viewer-submitted weather photos and a family/health/community section.
At the Local TV duopoly, KFOR won the evening news race in July. Its 4:30 newscast holds up against Oprah, and it keeps pace with KWTV at 10 p.m.
Oklahoma City may be ultra-competitive, but KFOR/KAUT's Boyer says at least everyone gets to share the wealth: “Every station here gets to say they're No. 1 in something.”