Tucson may have been decimated by the recent home foreclosure crisis, but the market continues to draw huge numbers of new residents. Population in the No. 66 DMA increased by more than 100,000 in the last five years, according to BIA Financial, and is forecast to grow at a comparable rate in the next five.
Count station managers among those new—and pending—arrivals. Former Fox O&O veteran general manager Bob Simone headed to southern Arizona in October to take over Belo's KMSB and KTTU, a Fox-MyNetworkTV duopoly. The successor for KVOA's top spot will be determined; what's known is that President/General Manager Gary Nielsen will retire at the end of the year. Nielsen will stay in the area when his work is done. “My family is here and the climate is spectacular,” he says. “And with 1.1 million people in the metro area, there's a lot that gets done here.”
Tucson is home to defense giant Raytheon, the massive University of Arizona and a clutch of very competitive stations; one general manager describes the local news landscape as “loaded.” Revenue leader KVOA, a Cordillera-owned NBC affiliate, won the morning news race in May and took the 5 p.m. contest, too. Journal's ABC outlet KGUN grabbed 6 p.m. honors, while Raycom's CBS affiliate KOLD took a tight late-news race, its 7.7 household rating/21.5 share topping KVOA's 6.5 rating/18.2 share. KOLD won primetime, too.
KOLD VP/General Manager Jim Arnold credits the station's victories to a “win the day” mantra that started in the newsroom and spread throughout the station. “We have the attitude that we're a metered market,” he says, “and every day we have to go out and do something to separate ourselves.”
Rounding out the field are CW affiliate KWBA, which Journal closed on in July 2008, Telemundo-owned KHRR and Univision's KUVE. Around 35% of the market is of Hispanic origin, according to BIA.
Stations are scrambling for the upper hand. KVOA is the only one doing local hi-def right now. KMSB is bullish on its 9 p.m. news and welcomes the public to participate through YouNews. KGUN is playing up health with an Arizona Active Living campaign, and KOLD does 24/7 weather and breaking news on channel 13.2.
As is the case with many recent boom towns, Tucson has had a few trying years. But 2010 looks like a lively political year, and people don't stop moving in. “Like everyone else, we've seen better days in prior years,” Nielsen says. “But Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states. That's not going to go away—we just have to be a little patient.”
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