Go Diego Go

The stereotypical San Diegan might be a sun-baked surfer, but the station battle in the market is anything but mellow.

A few percentage points separate the top three revenue earners, and stations are constantly finding niches to broadcast to, whether it's viewers in supermarkets or the market's booming Hispanic population—as Univision station KBNT is doing by increasing its news presence. “We're very committed to our local news market,” says VP/General Manager Alberto Mier y Teran, whose station airs the only 6 a.m. Spanish-language newscast, Despierta San Diego. “We continue to excel within our niche here.”

The San Diego economy is up and down. While it's the No. 27 DMA in terms of size, BIA Financial ranks it No. 18 in terms of revenue. But station managers speak of a glum 2007—revenue down as much as 18% as escalating gas prices, the subprime mortgage debacle and horrific wildfires in October slashed consumer spending. “The market was down pretty terribly last year,” says XETV VP/General Manager Richard Doutré Jones.

But there's reason to be upbeat. San Diego is an emerging technology base that some say is starting to rival Silicon Valley, and the non-profit Connect run by the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) helps startups launch. The government owns lots of land, thanks to the military's substantial presence in San Diego, which helps stabilize real estate. And then there's San Diego's famous weather, which keeps tourism robust. Both the U.S. Open golf tournament and comic book convention Comic-Con this summer should add hordes of visitors. (Last year, 125,000 attended the comic book fair.)

The market took in $288.1 million last year, according to BIA, and is expected to gross $324.1 million this year. The NBC O&O KNSD led with $66.5 million in 2006, followed closely by Midwest Television's CBS outlet KFMB ($64 million) and McGraw-Hill's ABC affiliate KGTV ($50.9 million). Other players include Grupo Televisa's Fox affiliate XETV (its license is in Mexico but it broadcasts in English), Tribune's CW outlet KSWB and Texas TV's indie KUSI. (Updated: KSWB is slated to switch to a Fox affiliate in August, and XETV is considering going independent or becoming a CW.)

Entravision Holdings owns KBNT and a TeleFutura affiliate, and manages a Telemundo outlet and a MyNetworkTV station. The Hispanic population is near 30%, says Mier y Teran, but it's 40% in the schools.

KNSD won the morning news race in February, while KFMB took evening and late news. XETV, which won primetime, added the morning show San Diego Living in September. KSWB, whose 10 p.m. news is produced by KNSD, has seen ratings gains thanks to Two and a Half Men and Family Guy in syndication. KNSD is extending its reach by airing content in arenas and supermarkets and at gas pumps, and recently announced a partnership with the University Network to air its programming at UCSD.

KNSD has a new president/general manager in Jackie Bradford, who started this month after a stint at sister O&O WRC Washington. She's still learning her way around the office and the city, but likes what she sees thus far. “People here are smiling more than they were in Washington, D.C.,” says Bradford. “When it's 75 degrees every day, you can't help but turn your frown upside down.”

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.