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Twin City Turnabout - Broadcasting & Cable

Twin City Turnabout

Huge sweeps for CBS station narrows the gap
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Like the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series, a scrappy challenger is poised to grab the crown in the Twin Cities news battle. With increases in share of revenue each year since 2002, CBS-owned WCCO is nipping at the heels of longtime leader KARE.

KARE grabbed the most revenue in 2006, but WCCO had a blockbuster May sweeps, easily winning total-day and primetime ratings and snaring the evening- and late-news titles, too.

Key to WCCO's emergence are interactive news segments, such as Good Question and Reality Check; a 6 p.m. anchor team that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary (and eight-year wedding anniversary; see box); and a renovated downtown facility that invites viewer interaction. “We enlarged the windows to make the studios and newsrooms more open to the community,” says VP/General Manager Susan Adams Loyd.

Although the Minneapolis-St. Paul market has been sluggish—it's Nielsen's No. 15 market but ranked 19th in terms of revenue, according to BIA Financial—station executives are optimistic. With corporate giants 3M, Target and Best Buy based here, the economy is diverse. The Republican party will hold its National Convention here in September 2008. And the recent trend of people moving back to urban areas for increased walkability has helped both Minneapolis and St. Paul; plans for a long-awaited rail link between the cities may materialize by 2014.

The market took in $295.8 million in 2006, according to BIA, which forecasts $289.8 million for 2007. Gannett's NBC affiliate KARE won with $82.6 million last year, ahead of WCCO ($75 million), Hubbard ABC outlet KSTP ($54.5 million) and Fox-owned KMSP ($45.8 million). Fox also owns the MyNetworkTV outlet, WFTC, and Sinclair has The CW station WUCW.

Despite NBC's weak primetime programming, KARE has stayed competitive. “We've got fantastic news judgment,” says President/General Manager John Remes. “We're known for our storytelling and photography, with a lot of personality added in.”

With savvy viewers in a market where an estimated 57% of the populace has college degrees, stations are more measured in their newscasts and generally feel emboldened to try new products. KARE Onlive—running simultaneously on-air and online—debuted at 4 p.m. May 30. KSTP has succeeded with local news at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. And KMSP, which started a weekend morning newscast, has tacked on a 35-minute 10 p.m. newscast following its hour of news at 9. “It's been a year of expansion and innovation for us,” says KMSP/WFTC VP/General Manager Carol Ruppel.

WCCO, meanwhile, is considering spinning off news segments into standalone shows. Good Question, featuring viewer questions answered both by people on the street and by experts, will jump from a feature within a newscast to a half-hour special later this month and perhaps to a regular program. Says Loyd, “We're absolutely focused on developing local content beyond local news.”

NEXT: Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Fla.

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