Market Eye: Up in the Air

News helicopter share grows in Denver (DMA #16)
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Spring snow is a part of life in Denver, with multiple squalls dropping feet of the white stuff on the region the last week of March. As a result, weather drives viewership in DMA No. 16, and KCNC has a unique approach that might cause consultants to howl. The CBS O&O offers a full weather report in the first 10 minutes of its late news, with no weather in the rest of the program.

This flies in the face of conventional local- news wisdom, but VP/General Manager Walt DeHaven says “First Forecast” is a hit. “Weather is an element people want, and then they want to get on with their lives,” he says. “We have to stop thinking in terms of what we do, and start thinking about what we should do.”

Given Denver’s taste for snow, the Winter Olympics were a major success for Gannett’s NBC affiliate KUSA, the nation’s top Local People Meter station for Games viewing in adults 25-54. The region is, after all, home to some boldface Olympic athletes, such as skier Lindsey Vonn. “It’s home for a lot of people who won medals in the Olympics and were the stories of the evening,” says KUSA President/ General Manager Mark Cornetta.

KUSA won all the major races in February. It also won big in November, losing only primetime to KCNC, with KMGH the runner-up. Gannett’s Denver operation thrives through a wide range of content platforms, including a MyNetworkTV affiliate, a Universal Sports digital channel and another offering 24/7 weather. Abundant two-way communication with viewers is also key. “Staying connected helps us continue to innovate,” Cornetta says.

Comcast is the major cable operator in Denver, whose primary employers include grocery chain King Soopers and Qwest Communications. Satellite TV service EchoStar is also based in the area. It’s a rich news market with solid operators. All the major news outlets are involved in a content pool for planned events, and KCNC and KDVR will join KUSA and KMGH in a helicopter share in the coming months.

Peter Maroney stepped in to manage Local TV/Tribune’s Fox-CW duopoly, KDVR and KWGN, last month. McGraw-Hill’s ABC affiliate, KMGH, added a 2010 Peabody Award to a wide trove of prizes for its investigative work. New digital channel KCDO shows retro programming and a 10 p.m. news from KGWN Cheyenne.

With the DMA’s Hispanic population at 21% and growing, Spanish-language options include Univision outlet KCEC, TeleFutura affiliate KTFD, KMGH’s Azteca affi liate and Telemundo’s KDEN. KCEC is pushing multi-platform business through its Entravision 360 initiative; KDEN airs Telemundo’s regional Acceso Total Friday mornings.

Denver’s size and independent-minded populace make for lots of breaking news, say managers, such as the Balloon Boy story that gripped the nation last fall. “Big stories seem to float through here,” says KMGH VP/General Manager Byron Grandy. “At times, they’re strange and odd.”

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