Standalone Station Is Chief in Kansas City

Fox station WDAF Kansas City
(Image credit: Fox)

Duopolies abound in Kansas City, but the one Big Four affiliate without a sibling station is, in fact, the market leader. Fox affiliate WDAF thrives on a relentless local strategy, airing 62 hours a week of local news, and talent that connects with K.C. viewers.

“Our anchors are real people,” Tracy Brogden-Miller, VP and general manager, said. “The community connects with them because people can relate to them.” 

Also drawing viewers to Fox4 is syndication standouts such as Live with Kelly and Ryan, Rachael Ray, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! 

Nexstar Media Group owns WDAF. Meredith has CBS affiliate KCTV and MyNetworkTV station KSMO. Hearst Television has ABC outlet KMBC and The CW affiliate KCWE. Scripps owns NBC affiliate KSHB and independent KMCI, known as 38 the Spot. KUKC is a Univision affiliate and KGKC a Telemundo one. Spectrum is the primary pay TV operator. 

Adjusting To New Normality 

Staffers are getting used to the work-from home era. WDAF has two buildings. KSHB has three floors and lots of room. “We’re able to have separate bubbles and keep people apart,” said Kathleen Choal, VP and general manager, KSHB-KMCI. 

The energy in the stations may not be what it was. “People in the business love it because it’s loud, it has a pulse to it,” said Sarah Smith, KMBC-KCWE  president/general manager. “It’s more quiet now.” 

Choal marked one year in Kansas City in October. Charlie Henrich, VP and general manager of KCTV-KSMO, arrived in March. 

Earlier in his career, he worked in Kansas City for Newport Television. “The city to me is very familiar,” he said. “The market can pride itself on its consistency.” 

The news race is tight. WDAF won households and the 25-54 demo at 6 a.m. in September. KMBC won the household race at 5 p.m. and WDAF a tight battle in 25-54. At 6 p.m., KMBC won households and WDAF the demo. At 10 p.m., KCTV got a 3.9 in households and WDAF a 3.8, KMBC a 3.5 and KSHB a 1.9. In the 10 p.m. demo, WDAF had a 2.0, KMBC a 1.2, KCTV a 1.1 and KSHB a 0.6. 

WDAF goes live at 4 a.m. KMBC has a lively investigative approach. “Do we do the day-to-day things? Yes,” said Smith. “But we try to dig a little deeper.” 

KCWE started a 60-minute noon news Sept. 21. KCTV launched a 9 a.m. news in June, in place of a lifestyle program. “That couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” said Henrich. 

KSHB offers news segments called “The Rebound.” “We want to give people hope,” said Choal. “That’s a hard thing to find.” 

Both KGKC and KUKC do news inserts, but not full local newscasts … yet. “My goal is to produce local content, including news,” said Steve Downing, general manager at KGKC, shooting for a morning newscast next year. 

Both Spanish-language stations hustled to keep viewers up to date on Census and election information. “Even though we’re not a full news station, we do a lot of outreach in the community,” said Velia Chavez, general manager at KUKC. 

The Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl champs, and look strong again in 2020. In these divisive times, it’s something everyone in DMA No. 32 can agree on. “Everyone is proud that [quarterback] Patrick Mahomes calls this city home,” said Smith. 

Kansas City offers a favorable mix of both cosmopolitan and folksy vibes. “There are lots of big-city amenities,” said Brogden-Miller, “but not a lot of big-city problems.”

KCPS Homeroom on KMCI

KCPS Homeroom on KMCI (Image credit: KMCI)


Scripps independent station KMCI is partnering with the Kansas City Public Schoools on KCPS Homeroom, a school lessons program that airs from 8-9 a.m. weekdays. As the pandemic took hold and students were not permitted in schools, Kathleen Choal, VP and general manager of KSHB-KMCI, reached out to the public school system and asked if the stations could help. The school system said yes. 

Kansas City schools are a mix of hybrid and remote learning these days. Kansas City Public Schools pays a modest fee for air time (“It’s not designed to be a money-maker for us,” Choal said) and has school staff deliver the lessons, which target kindergarten to 12th grade students. The hour is commercial-free and the school system handles production. 

“What we’re trying to do is bridge the divide between the kids that have internet access and the kids who don’t,” Choal said. 

The partnership began in August with graduation videos and rolled into lessons when school began. It will continue throughout the school year. 

“We think it’s a good service to our community,” Choal said. — MM

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.