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Griffin’s CBS outlet sweeps Tulsa field

Local flavor goes far in Tulsa, and no one seems to serve it up better than CBS affiliate KOTV. For starters, owner Griffin Communications is based in Oklahoma City, and VP/General Manager Regina Moon is an Oklahoma native.

The longtime leader, which plays the local card with segments like its Idol-esque state talent competition Gimme the Mike!, broke further from the pack in February sweeps. It handily won total-day and primetime ratings, along with early, evening and late news, too. Moon says the key is keeping turnover low. “We’ve retained our sales force to a greater degree than the competition,” she says. “Continuity is such an advantage. It’s still a relationship business.”

With an economy driven largely by aviation and telecommunications, Tulsa was hit hard after 9/11. Although it’s the No. 62 Nielsen market, Tulsa is two spots lower in revenue rank, according to BIA Financial. But station managers say things are on the upswing, thanks to initiatives like the city’s “Vision 2025” campaign to bolster commerce and to Indian tribes’ opening up massive casinos and hotels. The venues spend liberally on television, say managers.

“They not only spend a lot to market themselves,” says Pat Baldwin, president/general manager of ABC affiliate KTUL, “but they’re pretty good at buying [community-oriented] sponsorships that enhance their image.”

The market brought in a projected $78.7 million in 2006, according to BIA, up from $72.6 million in 2005. KOTV led the pack in 2005 (the last year station numbers are available) with $22.7 million, ahead of Allbritton’s KTUL ($20 million), Scripps’ NBC affiliate KJRH ($12 million) and Clear Channel’s Fox affiliate KOKI ($7.8 million). Cox is the dominant cable player, and satellite penetration has grown to around 35%.

Station managers say a wider array of newscasts has made the news race that much more heated. “Our weekend news has gotten really strong,” says KJRH VP/General Manager Mike Vrabac. Intense weather coverage in Tulsa (part of “Tornado Alley”) is KJRH’s calling card, with “street-level mapping” that Vrabac says shows weather down to pinpoint locations.

KOKI, half of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KMYT, has grown with 5 and 9 p.m. newscasts, while the four-hour Fox 23 News Daybreak, starting at 5 a.m., has had a strong first year. “We couldn’t be happier with how it’s done,” says Station Manager Holly Allen.

The CW affiliate KQCW, which squares off with Fox at 9 p.m., draws on the strength of its sister KOTV, as well as that of KWTV, Griffin’s standout station in Oklahoma City. Says KOTV’s Moon, who is also general manager of KQCW, the CW station has seen “the slow and steady growth we predicted.”

Over at WTUL, Baldwin says Good Day Tulsa stands out amid the news offerings at 9 a.m. It offers a frothy mix of community events and entertainment, including local acts and touring talent, which he says serves as a double latte for station staffers when they show up for work. “It’s a fun show, and it causes some excitement in the station,” says Baldwin.

Competition is also hot on the Web. KRJH recently overhauled its site, offering more video and interactive elements, such as polling and linking to Scripps siblings Food Network and GAC. WTUL has scored with its “Ask the Expert” feature, in which vendors pay to be online advisors, such as a home-furnishings company offering tips on interior design.

And KOTV is working with Griffin’s new-media department on pushing more and more news to cellphones. “It reaches a small number of people now,” says Moon. “But content over handheld devices will grow, and we want to be well-positioned for it.”