Turbo-Charged

Automotive spending spurs area’s prosperity
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While a soft automotive industry causes agita for most station executives, those in San Antonio actually have nice things to say about cars and trucks. GM and Ford maintain a strong television presence, say station brass, and the smaller manufacturers are stepping up as well.

“Automotive is huge here,” says David Cuccio, director of creative services at Washington Post Co.’s ABC affiliate KSAT. “They’re selling trucks like crazy.”

As if to prove the point, Toyota opened an $850 million manufacturing plant in the Alamo City in November.

With overall retail also robust, stations in this extraordinarily tight market are clamoring for the windfall. KSAT grabbed the largest market share in 2005 (the most recent numbers available), snagging some $44 million, according to BIA Financial. On its heels were Belo’s CBS affiliate KENS ($37.8 million), Clear Channel’s NBC outlet WOAI ($28 million), and Sinclair’s Fox affiliate KABB ($23.8 million). Univision station KWEX, Sinclair’s MyNetworkTV outlet KMYS, NBC’s Telemundo outlet KVDA and Corridor’s CW affiliate KCWX are also in the hunt.

San Antonio ranks as Nielsen’s 37th-largest market, but, as evidence of its prosperity, it’s No. 30 in terms of revenue, according to BIA. The market brought in an estimated $191.4 million last year, up from $176.4 million in 2005. Time Warner is the dominant cable operator, while AT&T’s U-verse TV service, working out the bugs from its trial phase, is gearing up for battle. (AT&T is headquartered in San Antonio.)

Cuccio says KSAT, which won evening news in the February sweeps, scored “record revenue and ratings” in 2006. The station will launch Spanish-language digital channel LATV in April and, late last year, expanded its local morning newscast from 1½ to 2 hours, kicking off at 5 a.m. Says Cuccio, “We felt like we had to be in the game for those who rise that early.”

The game is a hotly contested one. KENS President/General Manager Robert McGann reports that the Belo station had a nifty February sweeps, grabbing the total-day crown with a 5.3 rating/12 share and scoring wins in primetime, morning news and late news. It was KENS’ 14th straight ratings-period win in late news, he adds.

The secret to the surge? “We did a fair amount of research and promotion and really just had a solid team in place,” McGann says, adding that station veteran Vicki Buffolino was promoted to anchor in January and has garnered a “very favorable” viewer reaction.

Online, KENS benefits from a partnership with the market’s main newspaper, the Hearst-owned San Antonio Express-News.

WOAI has lost some ground in recent years, and VP/General Manager Donita Todd—who came on board six months ago—has her work cut out for her. She has made the Web a top priority, multi casting programming whenever possible. “We’re driving and developing content on WOAI.com,” she says. “We see ourselves not so much as broadcasters but as content-casters.”

WOAI is pushing syndication as well. Given Judge Judy’s success as a lead-in to the 5 p.m. news (“It’s done extremely well,” says Todd), the NBC affiliate will try out another court show, Judge David Young, come fall.

The big stations are also feeling the heat from the Spanish-language outlets; Univision station KWEX grabbed 12% of the 2005 market share.

Station managers agree that San Antonio is a boomtown. Business is diversified among several industries, particularly medical, education and the military. Washington Mutual is adding thousands of staffers, and the Toyota plant adds a second shift this month.

“It’s a good place not just to live but to build a business,” says Todd. “That’s fueling San Antonio’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

Next: Los Angeles

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