‘Peak’ Performances in Colorado Springs - Broadcasting & Cable

‘Peak’ Performances in Colorado Springs

Multiple stations vie for top spot in market
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There’s one heckuva game of King of the Hill going on in the shadow of Pikes Peak. Cordillera’s longtime leader KOAA is feeling serious pressure from News-Press & Gazette’s upstart KRDO. NBC affiliate KOAA had an off May sweeps, allowing ABC affiliate KRDO to make major inroads in the Colorado Springs-Pueblo market with its hard-news chops.

“There’s no question the competition has gotten a lot stronger, and we seem to be in their crosshairs,” says KOAA President/General Manager David Whitaker. “That’s good for the market— it sharpens everyone’s competitive skills.”

News-Press & Gazette (NPG) acquired KRDO in 2006; General Manager Tim Larson came on a year later. Larson has built a major-league news operation in Colorado Springs, and he says May was KRDO’s crowning achievement. “It was the best book in the station’s history,” he says. “We’re calling it our breakthrough book.”

But DMA No. 92, home to the Air Force Academy and aerospace outfit NORAD, is more than a two-station race. Gray’s CBS outlet KKTV is strong, too; all three air local news in HD—rare for a market this size. KKTV was in a virtual tie with KRDO and KOAA for total day household ratings in May, KRDO winning by a hair in share.

KKTV won primetime, while KRDO won early evening news. KRDO and KOAA were virtually tied in the morning news race, and late news was just as close—KOAA posted a 6.0 rating/17 share, KRDO a 6.0 rating/15 share.

KKTV was no slouch at 10 p.m. either, while Barrington’s Fox affiliate KXRM put up a 4.0 rating/9 share at 9 p.m. “It’s surprising how competitive it is for Market No. 92,” says KKTV General Manager Tim Merritt, “especially in terms of 10 p.m.”

KOAA was the 2009 revenue leader, its $10.63 million ahead of KKTV’s $9.4 million, per BIA/ Kelsey. Whitaker credits a wellestablished anchor crew and sound reporting. “We’re built upon good journalistic principles and an extremely strong weather position,” he says.

KKTV airs MyNetworkTV on its .2 channel and KRDO does the same with Telemundo. Barrington owns CW affiliate KXTU. Entravision has Univision outlet KGHB.

Colorado Springs represents around twothirds of the DMA’s population. Pueblo has around one-fifth, while outlying areas comprise the rest. Colorado Springs is home to dozens of sports governing organizations, such as USA Rugby and the United States Olympic Committee. The military presence is massive as well— around 35% of the market’s economy is tied to the armed forces, according to local GMs.

Between all the jocks and soldiers, it’s an earlyto- bed market. “There are a lot of early risers,” says KXRM-KXTU President/CEO Steve Dant. KXRM’s 9 p.m. news, he says, “gives people the opportunity to get their news earlier.”

KOAA adds weekend morning news in late August. KXRM debuted a 6:30 p.m. show last year. KXTU may even add news down the road. “It’s possible that we could roll it out on the CW side, but we haven’t decided yet,” Dant says.

KRDO, which is becoming the master control hub for all 12 of NPG’s ABC and Telemundo affiliates, is considering a 4 p.m. news. It added four one-minute news inserts per day to its Telemundo outlet late last year.

The local Telemundo might even get a newscast someday; clearly, the news formula is working for KRDO. “We have more news than anyone in the market,” Larson says. “I’m a news director at heart—it’s what I did all those years.”

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

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