Go West

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In 1847, a group of Mormon pioneers established camp in the Wasatch Mountain range in the valley of the Great Salt Lake—and a city was born. Utah boasts the nation's youngest population and one of the highest birth rates. Salt Lake City is a major transportation hub and sports a diversified economy. Today, Mormon influence dominates the state. Church-controlled Bonneville International Corp. owns KSL, the NBC affiliate and market leader.

But covering news here is tricky. Although the Salt Lake City designated market area (DMA) is No. 36 in population, it touches portions of six states. "Some parts of our DMA are a six-hour drive," says Steve Charlier, news director at CBS's KUTV. Stations rely heavily on helicopters, commuter flights, and a state-owned fiber-optic network on which they receive video feeds from stringers.

Coverage size is one problem; the 2001 recession is another. TV stations have yet to rebound. BIA projects 2004 market revenue at $157.4 million, short of the $166.5 million booked in 2000.

In the February sweeps, Viacom-owned KUTV took over the top spot for news at 5 p.m. KTVX, Clear Channel's ABC affil, was second, despite a strong lead-in from Oprah. KSL logged weak fringe numbers with Pyramid and Extra and finished a poor third at 5 p.m. The station won at 6 p.m., running its local newscast against network news on KUTV and KTVX. KSL has been a solid No. 1 at 10 p.m. for years.

Fox-owned KSTU produces a four-hour news block in the morning and the market's only 11 a.m. newscast. It's still tweaking its Good Day Utah and finished fourth overall. KJZZ is a successful independent station, owned by Larry H. Miller, whose company runs the Utah Jazz basketball team.

The market's cable penetration is a paltry 44%. About 28% of TV households are connected to satellite service.

In a rare display of competitive camaraderie, local broadcasters established DTV Utah in 1999. Spearheaded by former KSL President Steve Lindsley, it combines the stations' digital transmission facilities into a single antenna farm. Lindsley now heads USDTV, a new service that buys unused digital channel capacity from broadcasters and transmits a limited package of local and cable channels. "What we offer," he says, "is the closest thing yet to à la carte service."