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Battle on the Bayou

The newsrooms in DMA No. 83 have a lot of ground to cover. The market reaches no fewer than four states: home base Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Such vast reach keeps the newsrooms nimble and fast, with reporters doing double and triple duty. “We’ve transitioned to content-gatherers—all our reporters know how to shoot, and our photographers can write stories up,” says James Smith, VP/ general manager of KSLA. “We’ve got more one-person news crews in the field—we’re really emphasizing that to cover more ground.”

Covering more ground counts in this ultra- competitive market. CBS affi liate KSLA, owned by Raycom, and KTBS, an ABC affiliate owned by KTBS LLC, are in a sprint. The two were virtually tied in the 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. household ratings race in last May’s sweeps. KSLA won prime (“CBS is rockin’ and rollin’,” says Smith) and total-day ratings and took the vital 10 p.m. news race—KSLA’s 11.5 household rating/24 share topped KTBS’ 9.5/20.

KSLA held a slim lead in 2009 revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey, its $13.6 million ahead of KTBS’ $13.1 million.

KTBS LLC also owns CW outlet KPXJ. Rounding out the Shreveport field are Nexstar’s NBC outlet KTAL, ComCorp.’s Fox affiliate KMSS and KSHV, White Knight’s MyNetwork- TV affiliate. Satellite television has an outsize presence in Shreveport, more a function of DirecTV’s and DISH Network’s strong marketing efforts than any terrain issues for cable.

KSLA and KTBS sometimes mirror each other’s strategic moves. Both made the jump to local hi-def in mid-October. And both expanded their 6 p.m. news to an hour in July.

In late August, KTBS became the only Shreveport station with local news at 4:30 a.m. “It shows our commitment to local news and local programming,” says George Sirven, station manager. “We keep the market in tune with what’s happening.”

The market offers riverboat gambling and a large healthcare community. A GM plant that produced the Hummer is shutting down, taking an estimated 900 jobs, but the expansion of Barksdale Air Force Base is expected to make up for those losses. A film industry, which kicked into gear when movies to be shot in New Orleans needed new locations after Katrina, is gaining momentum. “When you drive around, you see fi lm crews,” says Smith. “It has grown into a pretty big industry here.”

With four states’ worth of elections, political money rolls in most autumns. Stations are scrambling for available ratings points. Over the summer, KTBS expanded its weekend 10 p.m. news to an hour; sister KPXJ also airs its own news at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. KSLA uses its digital tier for a weather channel and This TV, and its 9 a.m. news ends with the 15-minute, product placement-friendly Hometown Show segment. “It’s part of our plan to control our own destiny,” Smith says of the local content expansions.

KTAL breaks news on its site. KMSS engages viewers with contesting, including iPad giveaways during How I Met Your Mother at 5 and 5:30 p.m.

But it’s the CBS and ABC affiliates that are pulling away from the pack. “Shreveport really is a two-horse race,” says Smith. “It makes you want to do your best every single day—it keeps you on your toes.”

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