Portland Is Primed

KGW has strong news lead, but rivals make inroads
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Dual Identity

Portland, Ore., may be famous for its laid-back lifestyle, but the country's 24th-largest TV market is diverse in its tastes. Adidas USA and Nike are based in the area, as are several high-tech firms. “The region is like two states in one,” says Teresa Burgess, VP/GM for Meredith Broadcasting's Fox affiliate KPTV. “Metro Portland is affluent, liberal and educated; other parts of the state are rural and conservative.” Together, they make for a colorful local TV scene.

Belo Corp.'s NBC affiliate KGW reigns as the market's dominant station, winning sign-on to sign-off ratings for 21 straight ratings periods. In the recent February sweeps, KGW won noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and late news. The only newscast left to conquer is early morning, where the station is locked in a tight race with KPTV.

KGW's entertainment programming helps keep its news ratings high. In the afternoon, Oprah leads into early newscasts. In prime time, the NBC lineup delivers big ratings into 11 p.m. news, despite the network's stumbles this season.

“Portland out-delivers the national averages” for NBC stations, says President/GM Paul Fry, helping KGW weather NBC's prime time slump. Plus, Fry says, his late news has maintained its lead-in ratings.

But his rivals are chipping away. Emmis Communications' CBS affiliate KOIN is mounting a tough offensive in prime and late news. “Strong CBS shows perform exceedingly well here,” says VP/GM David Lippoff. It placed second at 11 p.m. in February. KOIN typically ranks No. 1 or No. 2 among CBS stations with its Survivor ratings, and CSI is the market's most-watched show.

KOIN's challenge, Lippoff says, is to convert more prime time viewers to its late news. KPTV's 10 p.m. news pulls in third-place late-news marks, and Fisher Communications' ABC affiliate KATU ranks fourth. Meredith owns the market's only duopoly: KPTV and UPN station KPDX. Comcast Cable is the market's largest cable operator.

Portland stations took in an estimated $178 million in gross revenue last year, up from $162 million in 2003, according to BIA Financial. Stations grabbed some political-ad money last year, which will temper ad growth this year. Station execs expect their ad business to grow in the low single digits.

One marketing challenge for TV stations: its residents' outdoor lifestyle. Says KOIN's Lippoff: “Even when it rains, people do not like to stay inside.”

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