Ready to Party

All eyes on Denver as the Democrats converge
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It's been exactly 100 years since the Democratic Party last held its national convention in Denver, and stations are scrambling to get ready for the 2008 wingding, which kicks off Aug. 25. It'll be four full days of news, not counting the buildup and the aftermath, and station managers are psyched.

“It's a big, big deal for a city like Denver,” says KCNC VP/General Manager Walt DeHaven. “A larger city might have several other things going on, but here, the whole state embraces it.”

Local businesses will greet the visitors with open arms. Business has been flat in the No. 18 DMA, say managers—the February caucuses didn't exactly break the bank—though Denver does come in at No. 16 in BIA Financial's revenue rank. Agriculture, tourism, aerospace and energy, both traditional (oil) and modern (wind), are key industries, and communications monolith Qwest has its headquarters in Denver, the state capital.

KUSA is a news power. Gannett's NBC affiliate won total day ratings in February, along with morning, evening and late news. But its rivals say things are heating up. Early morning news has gotten ultra-competitive—no fewer than five stations offer local news at 5 a.m.—and several are vying for No. 2. “Everyone besides KUSA is trying to figure out how to break from the pack,” says KMGH News Director Byron Grandy, who adds that the late news race is tighter as well.

The market took in $321.1 million last year, according to BIA. KUSA grabbed $98.7 million, ahead of the CBS O&O KCNC ($57.1 million), McGraw-Hill's ABC outlet KMGH ($46.6 million) and Fox affiliate KDVR ($44.9 million), which Fox is selling to Local TV LLC, the broadcasting wing of Oak Hill Capital. Gannett also owns the MyNetworkTV outlet KTVD; other stations include Tribune's CW outlet KWGN and Entravision's Univision affiliate KCEC.

It's been an eventful time for the Denver stations. KCNC, which dismissed a handful of staffers as part of the CBS O&O layoffs in late March, flipped the switch on high-definition local news April 21. The station, along with KUSA, KTVD and KMGH, activated a 730-foot digital master tower west of Denver in early May. The market will test Local People Meters this summer, and Nielsen plans to have them in full operation come fall. Some wonder how the Local TV station will team up with the CW outlet after the KDVR deal closes, as Local and Tribune stations share some functions.

Stations are innovating to expand their reach in the vast DMA, which covers 66 counties and touches parts of Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. KDVR is partnering with several Northern Colorado Communications newspapers to reach the corners of the DMA and beyond. KUSA News Director Patti Dennis says the station “completely blew up our news production” to recast KUSA as an “information center,” as the Gannett stations nationwide are doing. “The Web is an ever-demanding newscast,” she says, “and we continue to learn how to keep it as a live newscast at every moment of the day.”

Everyone's sharpening their game for August. “There's a lot of planning going on and a lot of excitement,” says KDVR VP/General Manager Bill Schneider. “We're proud to put Denver on display for the country and the world.”

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