A Hard-Fought News Race

It may not be the Gold Rush revisited, but the old California cow town Sacramento is in the middle of a boom. And, although it's a short drive from both Bonanza's Ponderosa and The Big Valley's
Barkley ranch, the latest TV range war in the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto market is being fought by some of TV's best-known names: Hearst-Argyle, Tribune, Gannett, Univision, Sinclair, Paxson and Viacom.

"It's one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States," says KXTV(TV) General Manager Russell Postell. "The underlying economy is strong, the weather is warm, and it's a low-cost, seismically stable alternative to the Bay Area with no water problems." Market advertising, led by automotive, is fairly typical, executives say.

Although long dominated by market leader KCRA-TV, local news races are hard-fought. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, an independent report card on local news, gave both KCRA-TV and KOVR(TV) "A" grades, and KXTV wasn't far behind with a solid "B." Few markets do as well overall.

In fact, back when the then-Paramount group was eliminating its news departments at an alarming rate, its Sacramento UPN affiliate KMAX-TV was one of the rare survivors. Now with Viacom, KMAX-TV has maintained its news brand with a five-hour morning show.

KCRA-TV dropped a late-afternoon local newscast in September, but that was done in order to offer both Dr. Phil
and The Oprah Winfrey Show
in the afternoon. Elliott Troshinsky, who runs both KCRA-TV and The WB affiliate KCQA(TV), said his later newscasts added viewers following the switch.

Despite the growth and the major TV players, the market is nonetheless a bit of an underperformer, coming in at No. 24 in market revenue. Local executives attribute that to the hyphenated nature of the market, which divides the market's commercial and population centers, affecting local ad rates.