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The Best of the West

Things are heating up in Los Angeles. The famed Santa Ana winds, which can fuel the dreaded Southern California wildfires this time of year, are starting to stir, and the divorce trial involving Frank and Jamie McCourt, embattled owners of baseball’s beloved Dodgers, is dominating the news. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving, news-wise,” says KNBC President/General Manager Craig Robinson.

As always, there’s no shortage of stories in the No. 2 DMA, and the L.A. stations are up for the challenge. KNBC has a new newsroom chief in Vickie Burns, formerly of sister NBC O&Os WNBC New York and WRC Washington. Adding a 4:30 a.m. newscast last spring, KTTV features six hours of local morning news. KCBS launched a joint Website with the local CBSowned radio properties at Sept. 1. KTLA has a lively Twitter approach, showcasing all that makes L.A., well, L.A. (Sept. 3: “Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Husband Wants to Plastinate Her Body After Death”).

But KABC commands the news battles in town. Surprising no one, the ABC-owned station dominated the May sweeps, winning all major races, including the 11 p.m. news with a 4.2 household rating/9 share, ahead of KMEX’s 4.0 rating/9 share. Stations are playing for second place: KTTV took it 5-7 a.m., Univision’s KMEX grabbed it at 6 p.m. and KCBS was runner-up in total day household ratings. Fox-owned KTTV was also second in primetime, and won the 10 p.m. news race over Tribune’s CW affiliate KTLA and CBS-owned independent KCAL.

KABC President/General Manager Arnie Kleiner says the key to the station’s success is a degree of diversity that matches the city itself. “We try to be L.A.,” he says. “This is probably the most diverse city in America. On-air and around the station, people see that diversity.”

Nearly 45% of residents in the DMA claim Hispanic origin, according to BIA/Kelsey. The Spanish-language options are myriad. Among them, Univision owns KMEX, TeleFutura affiliate KFTR and a batch of radio stations; NBC owns Telemundo affiliate KVEA; and Liberman Broadcasting has Estrella outlet KRCA.

Stations are geared up for the new season. Foxowned MyNetworkTV affiliate KCOP has How I Met Your Mother. KABC produces the rookie fitness show Custom Fit for the ABC group’s Live Well HD digital channel, which launches a new season Oct. 4. NBC Local Media’s KNBC debuts Daily Connection at noon Sept. 13; it features the day’s best clips from NBC’s various media outlets, fronted by KNBC talent.

Robinson says NBC’s new prime schedule pops like it hasn’t in years. “It’s my 28th pilot season, and I’ve never felt better about the lineup than I do now,” he says.

KCBS added a 4:30 a.m. news Sept. 7. President/ General Manager Steve Mauldin says the station saw “a great opportunity to provide viewers with an early look” at weather, news headlines and traffic.

Automotive advertising is humming once again, the film industry is increasing its TV spending and, it being the Golden State and all, issues money has driven a strong political year that will only heat up in the coming weeks. “Political has been good all throughout 2010,” says KTTV/KCOP VP/General Manager Kevin Hale, who aired the Barbara Boxer- Carly Fiorina senatorial debate, produced by the Bay Area’s KTVU, Sept. 1.

KABC is one of a handful of Oprah Winfrey stations to tip its hand as to what it will air when Winfrey steps off the broadcast stage next year. Despite its strength with local programming—KABC also produces the weekly celeb show On the Red Carpet for the rest of the ABC group—it will go with Dr. Oz. Unlike most markets, Oprah runs at 3 p.m. in Los Angeles. “We did the research and we think Dr. Oz has a chance to be a great news lead-in,” Kleiner says. “We like the show, and we like him.”

General managers here say Nielsen added 50 homes to the L.A. market sample in late August, bringing the grand total of households to 1,000 and giving a more accurate read on who’s watching what in the City of Angels. “It should add reliability to the ratings,” Hale points out, “with less fluctuation day to day.”

A big chunk of those new Nielsen homes are likely tuned into KABC. When there’s something big in the market, whether it’s an earthquake or those wildfires, KABC execs say it’s common for their audience to surpass KCBS and KNBC combined.

“Whenever there’s any kind of breaking news, our numbers just skyrocket,” says KABC Director of Research Dennis Aimino. “People come to us before they go to the competition.”

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