Capital Gains

In Austin, the capital of the Lone Star State, ABC affiliate KVUE is the market leader, boasting The Oprah Winfrey Show, Entertainment Tonight, Sex and the City and Frasier. But over the past few years, CBS-owned KEYE has made steady audience gains, thanks in part to the top anchors it has poached from KVUE.

After floundering in the wake of an ownership switch in the 1990s, KEYE has seen ratings growth for the past 10 sweeps. In 2003, veteran newscasters Fred Cantú and Judy Maggio left KVUE for KEYE, and beginning March 8, Maggio’s former on-air partner at KVUE, Ron Oliveira, will join her on KEYE’s 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts (see sidebar at right).

“I’ve got great competitors here,” says KEYE General Manager Mike Reed, “and they’re not just going to open the floodgates and let us take over. But we’ve eroded their lead.”

KVUE General Manager Patti Smith says the changes haven’t hurt her station. Last November, KVUE averaged the highest ratings in sign-on to sign-off and prime time. “It’s an entire team that puts out a product,” says Smith, who has expanded KVUE’s news coverage in her seven-year tenure. “I’m very happy with the team we’ve got.”

Tracy Arrington, a media buyer for Austin-based agency GSD&M, agrees: “Viewers follow these anchors that have been here for 20-plus years, but there is more to a news program than just an anchor.”

Austin, America’s 16th-largest city, is home to the University of Texas and computer giant Dell Inc., making for well-educated viewers—and, says Forrester Research, the country’s most wired. All of Austin’s stations have invested in ambitious Web sites.

“To say people are wired here is like saying people breathe oxygen,” says KXAN/KNVA General Manager Carlos Fernandez. NBC affiliate KXAN is a contender, with the No. 1 late newscast in November sweeps and impressive growth for its new 4 p.m. news. It also has acquired Rachael Ray and The Greg Behrendt Show for the fall.

Meanwhile, KNVA, the lame-duck WB affiliate, is weighing affiliation with either The CW or Fox’s new My Network TV. (Austin picks up KBEJ’s UPN feed from nearby Fredericksburg.)

KTBC, the syndication-heavy Fox station, has made few major changes recently, but it has acquired Cristina’s Court, Judge Maria Lopez and Dr. Keith Ablow for daytime.

Nielsen’s 53rd-largest market is also 27.8% Hispanic and includes outlets from Uni­vision (KAKW), Azteca America (KADF) and Telefutura (KHPZ).

Next: Little Rock, Ark.