Remember the Alamo City

Storm refugees find a growing economy

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Texas’ third-largest TV market is bursting with thousands of evacuees. The new residents—some will remain even after the Gulf Coast floods subside—are based in a healthy and growing midsize market and are adding to the city’s coffers as they buy food, clothing and even cars.

Blue-chip companies like Toyota and Washington Mutual have selected San Antonio for new operations, and tourism remains robust, with visitors drawn to the Alamo and River Walk. Sports are a big draw as well: The Spurs are reigning NBA champs, and the displaced New Orleans Saints may play “home” games in San Antonio this season.

Local broadcasters also enjoy a vibrant market. As Nielsen’s 37th-largest market, San Antonio places two spots higher in revenue rank, according to BIA Financial. Local TV took in $174.8 million last year, up from $154.5 million in 2003, according to BIA. ABC affiliate KSAT was No. 1 in revenue with $43.7 million, followed closely by CBS affiliate KENS and NBC outlet WOAI with $33 million each.

The ratings are similarly competitive. KENS is tops in late news, a distinction it has held for the past eight sweeps periods, and also in prime time. KSAT, which airs Dr. Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show in late afternoon, wins in early-evening news. The rivals, however, are close behind. In May, for instance, KENS won late news with a 13 rating/19 share, but KSAT wasn’t far behind with a 12/17, and WOAI posted an 11/15. At 6 p.m. in May, KSAT led with an 11/18, while KENS turned in a 10/17. “There is still a huge upside for news in this market,” says David Cuccio, director of marketing for KSAT, who adds that ratings doubled after KSAT expanded its noon news to an hour last fall.

Nonetheless, the market could not support a 24/7 cable news channel. Last year, Belo and Time Warner shuttered their regional news network, News 9 San Antonio. Azteca America affiliate KVDF took over News 9’s channel position on Time Warner systems, one of three Spanish-language stations serving the market’s Hispanics, who make up 48% of the population, according to Scarborough Research. Univision Communications owns Univision station KWEX and Telefutura outlet KNIC. In May, KWEX tied with WOAI for No. 3 in prime time ratings, and its late news posted a 5 rating/7 share.

“Advertisers are very aware of the growth here,” says Bob McGann, VP/general manager for KENS. “The [general] and Hispanic populations are growing very fast.”

Toyota is bringing its regional headquarters to the Alamo City next year and opening a plant. While that means jobs, it also should mean ad revenues. Says Cuccio, “We’re seeing other dealers ramping up, trying to not let Toyota take the market.”

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