For a market considered sedate and conservative, Salt Lake City offers some surprises. Note that the most popular TV figures in syndication locally are not the academically oriented Alex Trebek or the aphoristically inclined Pat Sajak and spelling whiz Vanna White, but the wisdom-free Homer Simpson and his behaviorally challenged son, Bart.
"This is a young, educated market," says Dave Phillips, KUTV general manager and a six-year veteran of the market. "It's conservative, but it's young, and much more cosmopolitan than people give credit for. Fox does well in this market."
There has been a fair amount of change in station management. Following trades in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, Clear Channel took ownership of KTVX(TV) from Fox, which continues to own KSTU(TV). And a month after taking over KTVX, Clear Channel cleaned house, bringing in a new general manager, news director, general sales manager and director of engineering—all from its Minneapolis Fox affiliate. KSTU is currently run by Duffy Dyer, who is based at Fox's WTTG(TV) Washington; locals expect there to be local management eventually.
In local news, the Big Three network newscasts examined recently by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found the market right in the middle of the 14 studied. Top-rated KSL-TV was given the market's highest grade, a B; KTVX and KUTV followed, with C's.
KSL-TV has been the market's top-rated station for decades now, although CBS's KUTV has grown more competitive and wins in morning and noon newscasts, according to Phillips. "They've been the strong station for a long time," he says.
The market had been forecast to bill more than $160 million this year, although locals suspect the economic downturn will bring that total down a bit.