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Desert Bloom

Last May, CBS affiliate KOLD edged out the longtime news leader, NBC affiliate KVOA, to claim the top-rated 10 p.m. newscast in the Tucson, Ariz., market. But it was only one victory in a much bigger war. KOLD General Manager Jim Arnold says his station is determined to win every time period.

While Raycom Media's KOLD claimed the top-rated 5 p.m. news in addition to its 10 p.m. during May sweeps, Cordillera-owned KVOA still took mornings and 6 p.m.

“This market is extremely tight and competitive in news,” Arnold says. Particularly so for a midsize one like Tucson, No. 71 among Nielsen markets. But population growth is pushing all of the stations to revamp news and launch digital multicast channels.

KOLD recently lost its meteorologist Erin Christiansen to ABC affiliate KGUN, and since June, when KOLD star Kris Pickel decamped for CBS-owned KOVR Sacramento, Calif., the station has been in the market for a new primary female anchor. Arnold has a short list of candidates and hopes to name Pickel's replacement by late September.

Belo-owned Fox station KMSB simulcasts morning news from sister station KTVK Phoenix and co-produces a 9 p.m. newscast. Third-placed KGUN, recently acquired by Journal Communications, has hired a new news director and weekend anchors, and the station plans to freshen its set and graphics.

Hispanic residents make up 35% of the population. Univision-owned KFTU and NBC Universal Telemundo station KHRR offer news for the market's Spanish-speakers. In October, KWBA, the soon-to-be CW station, will debut LATV—a service aimed at young, bilingual Hispanics—on its multicast tier.

Stations are offering new entertainment and syndicated options, too. KOLD uses one of its secondary digital channels for The Tube music-video network. This fall, KWBA is adding Judge Judy, KOLD will have the new Rachael Ray talk show, and KMSB is picking up The Megan Mullally Show.

Tucson's influx of new residents has buoyed the local economy, driving advertising from home-related categories like furniture and home improvement. The region ranks No. 62 in TV revenue, according to BIA Financial.

Stations took in $73.3 million in gross revenue last year, with KVOA and KOLD in the lead, each drawing some $19.5 million. This year, stations expect to take in about $6 million from political spending, mostly from Senate and Congressional campaigns.

“New viewers moving here are looking for sources for news,” says Andrew Stuart, general manager of KGUN. “That's an opportunity for all of us.”