Cities of the Plain

Agriculture, airplanes help Kansas market

An unusual combination of the agriculture and aviation industries drives the economy in Nielsen's 66th-largest TV market. Wichita-Hutchinson, Kan., is located in one of the largest wheat-producing regions in the country and is also home to manufacturing plants for Boeing, Cessna Aircraft and Raytheon Aircraft, as well as dozens of related companies.

Local broadcasters say both industries are fairly stable. “That has given more comfort to the market,” says KWCH VP/General Manager Joan Barrett.

Wichita TV stations pulled in $52.3 million in gross revenue last year, up from $51 million in 2003, according to BIA Financial. In 2004, CBS affiliate KWCH was the leader, with $17.1 million in revenue, followed by NBC affiliate KSNW's $15.5 million. But revenue is still below previous levels. After Sept. 11, the aviation industry plummeted. “We're working out of a tough four-year period,” says KSNW General Manager Shawn Oswald.

Automotive, the largest advertising category, is holding steady. The telecommunications and food categories are expected to heat up later this year, with new competitors entering the market. “These businesses will have to market themselves to get to consumers,” says KSAS General Sales Manager Jeff McCausland. A downtown revitalization project, which includes a $180 million arena, should create more business.

KWCH is the market leader in overall ratings and key news dayparts. In May, the CBS station earned top marks in early evening and 10 p.m. news. It airs Dr. Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show, providing a big lead-in for early-evening news. The station also produces a 9 p.m. news for Fox affiliate KSAS. Clear Channel, which owns KSAS, also operates UPN outlet KSCC.

KAKE and KSNW are duking it out for second place. In May household ratings, KSNW was No. 2 in total day and 6 p.m. news, while KAKE nabbed higher ratings in 10 p.m. late news.

As it can take six hours to drive the length of the market, affiliates need multiple stations to broadcast across it. Both KCWH and KSNW have four transmitters; KAKE and KSAS rely on three apiece. Having multiple stations provides broadcasters with flexibility in news and ad sales. If severe weather hits one area, a station can cut in with breaking news for a slice of the market. Salespeople are positioned at each location to service local clients. KWCH provides local news and weather for each of its outposts, while KSNW customizes weather in evening news.