A taste for the non-traditional


When Edward K. Braxton became bishop of the Lake Charles, La., Catholic Diocese in late 2000, KPLC-TV put together a collection of area vendors to underwrite the station's four-hour live coverage of the installation. Although the ceremony was steeped in tradition, "that was not a traditional advertising package," says Jim Serra, general manager at Liberty Corp.'s KPLC-TV, the market's long-dominant station.

The market grew through such atypical advertising sales, he explains. "For years, the market was under-retailed. We learned a long time ago that, as a market with a strong petrochemical presence, this market tends to be cyclical and we had to get off the conventional sales treadmill. That's protected us in down years."

Lake Charles is a small market: only four parishes (counties), just over a quarter-million people and two local commercial stations.

"In a two-market station," says KVHP General Manager Al Tanksley, "there are a lot of available advertisers." Most of that advertising is local, and the station does not employ a national rep firm. "But some of that national advertising trickles down."

KVHP is owned by local investors going by the name National Communications Inc., even though the station is its sole property. KPLC-TV is owned by Liberty Corp. and is routinely among the top-performing stations in the nation, with sometimes staggering local-news numbers. Both stations offer about 20 hours of news a week.

"Not a day goes by when I'm not stunned by the amount of news that goes on here. The petroleum industry, the deep-water port, the aircraft industry, prevailing old Cajun culture, and now the gaming industry—these, by their very nature, generate news. Add to that Louisiana's notorious state politics, and the question is not how do we find enough news but how do we find enough time to cover the news."