Market Eye: It's Noisy in Boise

Affiliation switch in Treasure Valley sparks game of musical chairs
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On Sept. 1, Fox will have a new home in Boise, Idaho. Fox and KTRV parted ways over terms of affiliation, prompting the broadcaster to partner with current CW outlet KNIN. KTRV announced its intention to be a full-on independent not long after the “doomsday letter,” as President/General Manager Ricky Joseph describes it, landed at the station.

Owned by Block Communications, KTRV is adding staff—and news. “We look at it as a tremendous opportunity to be entrepreneurial,” says Joseph. “We really have the opportunity to be what’s on our license: Idaho Independent Television.”

Journal owns KNIN and ABC affiliate KIVI. Jim Thomas, Journal VP of marketing and programming, says KNIN is talking up the switch with a campaign that involves sister radio stations, street teams and billboards. “The ubiquitous way is the best way to do something like this,” Thomas says.

The shakeup affects all players in DMA No. 113. Journal is adding more than a dozen staffers. Fisher’s KBOI, a CBS affiliate, will slot the CW on its subchannel Sept. 12 in place of RTV, and will have The Daily Buzz at 7 a.m. and news at 9 p.m. “It adds a new wrinkle,” says Eric Jordan, KBOI general manager. “We’ll have three big affiliates and an independent producing news. It’s gonna make it very competitive.”

KTVB is non-plussed, and has good reason to be. Belo’s NBC affiliate grabbed more than 45% of the market’s TV revenue last year, according to BIA/Kelsey, and Doug Armstrong, president/ GM, says the station overindexes the net by at least 40%. KTVB won total-day ratings by a mile in the May sweeps and took all the major news races (including a 15 household rating/39 share at 10 p.m.); it trailed KBOI in primetime.

“They’re the big dog in the market…the 600-pound gorilla,” KBOI’s Jordan says of KTVB.

Confusion brought on by the switcheroo may even help KTVB. “It’s just a game of musical chairs—nothing new is being created,” Armstrong says. “I’ve seen all of the research on affiliation switches, and the stations that don’t switch tend to rise in ratings in the short term.”

Armstrong mentions continuity, quality and legacy when discussing KTVB’s sovereignty. The station has had just three general managers in 58 years, four news directors in 26 years and extraordinary tenure at the anchor desk, Armstrong says. “We have more of everything— people and equipment,” he adds.

Cable One is the major cable operator, but Boise is a huge satellite TV market.

Boise has been through a crunching economic cold snap. The stations booked $40.5 million in 2007, per BIA, but just $29.9 million last year. Massive construction projects mirroring major population growth, similar to what happened in Las Vegas, ground to a halt. “It’s almost like everybody stopped building,” says Jordan.

Amidst the musical chairs, stations are fighting hard to get ahead. KTVB has new 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. newscasts on its “24/7” digital channel. KBOI saw news ratings jump following a rebranding last year when it returned to its original call letters after a 35-year run as KBCI. The station is also broadcasting out in the community more than ever. “It shows we’re involved and that really resonates with people,” says Jordan.

On Sept. 19, KTRV will launch double runs of 30 Rock at 8 p.m., followed by Law and Order: Criminal Intent at 9. Joseph says the station is looking for 70-75% of the ad rates it got when Fox’s standout primetime shows aired. “We appear to be close to that,” he says.

Shakeup or not, Boise is a KTVB market. “Generations have grown up knowing KTVB is No. 1,” says Armstrong, “and they pass it on to their kids and grandkids.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

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