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Desert Drama

Albuquerque news departments have a major story on their hands. Police have found the remains of as many as 13 women buried under a construction site in the past few months. Stations have come up with innovative ways to cover the grisly news, such as using Microsoft Virtual Earth to help users zero in on the desolate crime scene.

But KRQE-KASA President/General Manager Bill Anderson says all have been respectful of the terrible tragedy afoot. “All the stations are covering it, but nobody's trying to outdo the other station,” he says, mentioning a sober approach to promotion.

General managers say the Albuquerque-Santa Fe market continues to grow. While TV revenue isn't what it was in recent years in the No. 44 DMA, the heavy government presence—there are a pair of national laboratories and three Air Force bases—keeps things relatively robust. “The jobs are pretty stable and they pay pretty well,” says KOAT President/General Manager Mary Lynn Roper. “We're a little protected in that regard.”

Albuquerque boasts a healthy news race. LIN's CBS outlet KRQE, which won primetime in March by a landslide, took late news with an 8.7 household rating/16 share—besting Hubbard's NBC affiliate KOB and Hearst-Argyle's ABC affiliate KOAT. KOB topped KOAT in mornings, while KOAT returned the favor in evening news.

Anderson says the 9 p.m. news on his Fox station is growing considerably, its ratings inching closer to the big guys at 10. “At some duopolies, the Fox newscast is a preview for the 10 p.m. news,” he says. “We don't approach it that way.”

KOAT has stepped up its late news, too, extending its 10 p.m. program to an hour last June. Roper says the extra room has allowed KOAT to expand features like weather coverage. “We realized we had more news than we could fit in at 10,” she says. “It's given us a chance to do a few [new] things.”

Other stations include Acme's CW-MyNetworkTV duopoly KWBQ and KASY, and Spanish-language stations such as Entravision's Univision and TeleFutura outlets, and a Ramar-owned Telemundo affiliate.

Besides the federal jobs, the market is also home to an expanding General Mills facility, and is an emerging player in film and television production. While automotive advertising is down, stations are seeing growth in segments like gambling, as residents opt to spend “staycations” at the local casinos.

As long as new arrivals keep turning up, managers say marketers will need to reach out to them. “They're still selling homes in Albuquerque,” Anderson says, “and they're still selling cars.”

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