Dueling and Pooling Deep in the Heart of Texas

Steven Dial of KDFW Fox 4
Steven Dial of Fox's KDFW (Image credit: KDFW Fox 4)

Dallas-Fort Worth is among the most competitive news markets, but the stations
are working together to best cover this highly eventful news cycle. One station shoots a scheduled event, such as a press conference, and shares the footage. “It has been a real positive collaboration across the news stations,” Kathy Saunders, KDFW senior VP/general manager, said. 

Fox owns KDFW. NBCU owns KXAS and Telemundo station KXTX. Tegna has ABC affiliate WFAA and CBS has KTVT and independent KTXA. Univision owns KUVN. Nexstar Media Group holds The CW outlet KDAF. Charter Communications’s Spectrum is the major pay TV operator. 

Dallas and Fort Worth are about 32 miles apart. Dallas residents are often from other states, while Fort Worth is said to have more native Texans and a more Texas vibe. DMA No. 5 also covers Arlington. 

“The appetite here for news is good,” said Gary Schneider, KTVT-KTXA president/general manager. “There’s so much news going on in this area.” 

The giant corporations and extreme weather in the region keep newsrooms hopping. “Weather is very important down here,” said Tom Ehlmann, KXAS-KXTX president/general manager. “You have to take the storm warnings seriously.” 

The market is keen to overtake Philadelphia for No. 4 in the Nielsen rankings. It was around 195,000 TV homes behind at last count. Ehlmann described “the most dramatic growth we’ve ever seen.” 

The ratings race is extraordinarily close. KDFW took the 6-7 a.m. title in May in households and viewers 25-54. KXAS won both races at 5 p.m. and WFAA took 6 p.m. households, while KDFW grabbed the demo title. WFAA posted a 4.59 rating in households at 10 p.m., ahead of KXAS’s 4.18. KTVT got a 3.75 and KDFW a 3.62. In 25-54 at 10 p.m., KDFW posted a 2.36, WFAA a 1.99, KXAS a 1.43 and KTVT a 1.08. 

Lynnanne Nguyen of KDFW Fox 4

KDFW's Lynnanne Nguyen (Image credit: KDFW Fox 4)

“The Big Four are all good competitors,” said Ehlmann. “Everybody can lay claim to a daypart or newscast.” Saunders said that brings out the best in everyone. 

Among Spanish-language players, KUVN got a 2.67 in 10 p.m. households and a 2.55 in the demo, while KXTX scored a 1.10 in both.

 KDFW thrives on talent longevity — anchor Clarice Tinsley has spent 41 years at Fox 4. “Viewers relate to the anchors and reporters,” said Saunders, who said the station’s news is delivered in a “straightforward” manner. 

Mark Masepohl, KUVN president/general manager, cited a similar reason for KUVN’s success. “It’s all about making sure you have that emotional connection with the audience,” he said. 

KUVN is also involved in the footage pool. “Everybody wants to be No. 1, but the even bigger mission is to make sure viewers are informed,” Masepohl said. 

Stations are hustling to extend their news brands. KDAF started hourly 30-second news inserts and a digital show about COVID-19 in April. Morning After, a 10 a.m. program, launched June 1. A half dozen-person content team has been hired. “Nexstar has given us a nice little investment to get stuff done,” said John Trevino, VP and general manager. “We’re showing people, ‘Hey, we’re back into the local content business.’ ” 

On May 18, KTVT premiered streaming news platform CBSN Dallas-Fort Worth. “It’s been extremely well-received,” said Schneider. “It’s great to be the first in the market to do that.” KDFW has temporarily replaced Sunday sports program Free for All with news. KXTX produced climate change documentary Cambio Climatico, which Ehlmann called “a huge effort.” 

The market heartily welcomed the Colonial National Invitational Golf Tournament to Fort Worth June 11-14. Spectators were not permitted, but all could watch on CBS. 

Saunders said the residents set Dallas-Fort Worth apart. “They really care about the city and the community,” she said, “and they care about each other.”

KXAS-KXTX‘s ’Clear the Shelters’

KXAS-KXTX‘s ’Clear the Shelters’ (Image credit: KXAS-KXTX)

‘Clear’ Mission for KXAS-KXTX

In August, KXAS-KXTX will host “Clear the Shelters,” a campaign designed to spark pet adoption and prevent animals from being euthanized. The initiative launched in 2014 as "Empty the Shelter Day," with the stations talking up the event on the air. Thirty-eight shelters took part. The following year, the name was changed to Clear the Shelters, and the program expanded to NBC’s owned-station markets. “People love animals and it just took off,” Nada Ruddock, NBC 5 community investments VP, said. 

Clear the Shelters expanded further, to include NBC and Telemundo affiliates outside the owned group. Fully 1,982 shelters took part last year, across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. “We’re everywhere now,” Ruddock said. 

Some 411,000 animals have been adopted through the program. Most are dogs and cats, but not all. “This is Texas,” Ruddock said. “Sometimes we have a pig here and there.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.