Roll the Dice

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Local Flavor

Las Vegas is a gambler's paradise. They say what happens here, stays here, which may account for its population boom. The region adds about 7,000 new residents every month. And that's good news for broadcasters.

The market has jumped 13 positions since 1997 to become Nielsen's 51st-largest designated market area (DMA). Though Vegas stations took a slight revenue hit following 9/11, tourism—the foundation of the local economy—quickly recovered. BIA estimates market revenue will reach $191 million this year.

"It is a healthy market with lots of tourism and retail; plus, we receive a higher level of national dollars than other markets our size because we are so high-profile," says Emily Neilson, president and general manager of KLAS, the CBS affiliate owned by Landmark Communications.

So close is the ratings contest between KLAS and KVBC, the NBC affiliate owned by Sunbelt Communications, that the battle for No. 1 is fierce. The stations typically finish within a couple share points of one another in both local-news and total-day households. KTNV, Journal Broadcast Group's ABC affiliate, and Meredith's Fox station, KVVU, are usually locked in a tight race for third place in total-day ratings.

Nine stations do some type of local-news programming. KLAS produces a 10 p.m. newscast for Venture Technologies-owned UPN affiliate, KTUD. Sinclair's WB station, KVWB, launched a 10 p.m. show last year, using its owner's News Central format. Independent KFBT started a 7 p.m. newscast last summer. Stations often try to best each other, cutting into regular programming.

Hispanics comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population. Entravision owns Univision affiliate KINC and TeleFutura outlet KELV. Summit Media operates KBLR, a Telemundo affiliate. KINC produces two local newscasts each day.

Cable, too, is booming in the desert, with 75% penetration. Cox Communications, the area's dominant provider, sells local spots inserted on nearly 60 cable networks. Cox and KLAS are partners in Las Vegas One, a 24-hour local-news channel. Programming consists of rebroadcasts of KLAS news programs, Bloomberg business news, and long-form coverage of trials and government hearings.

Tradition means little in Las Vegas, which presents the biggest single challenge to TV managers. "We are constantly having to sell ourselves, our history, and our product," Neilson says. "You can't take anything for granted."

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