Shake-Up Is the Byword

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When writing about San Francisco television, it's as difficult to avoid earthquake metaphors as it is to sum up this complex and dynamic market. Since 2000, the once relatively stable market has been shocked by the colossal sale of an NBC affiliate, a battle over network compensation, a switch in affiliation, a reverse-comp deal, another major station sale, and many key personnel changes (see article at left). Developments in this market need to be measured on the Richter Scale.

At 7%, unemployment in the hard-hit high-tech market is high, but per capita income ($25,449) and household income ($68,850) are sky-high, to match the cost of living. Ranked No. 5, the market is fourth in performance, and, while households-using-television (HUT) levels are lower than in most top markets, San Francisco ad sales could hit $700 million next year. Advertising is typical, led naturally by automotive, with a higher-than-unusual entertainment sector.

Summing up: Once-powerful NBC affiliate KRON-TV turned independent, has struggled to remain a major player in local news but has rejoiced in the remarkable success of its prime time news lead-in: the creatively placed Dr. Phil.

Stability has helped powerhouse Cox-owned Fox affiliate KTVU(TV) remain strong. The station likes to note that its late news—an hour earlier than the three O&Os' newscasts—often gets the market's top numbers.

ABC-owned KGO-TV has done well in advancing into the local-news leadership vacuum left when KRON-TV lost its NBC affiliation, but it has been hurt in late news by poor ABC lead-ins. Aided by a strong CBS prime, KPIX-TV just posted a surprising late-news win in February sweeps, its first in a decade.

New NBC affiliate, KNTV(TV), gained instant recognition as a contender with last year's Winter Olympics on the heels of its affiliation switch and has maintained credible numbers with local news and network ratings.