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Knight Fever in Vegas

Why This Matters: Fast-growing Las Vegas is where the action is for a lively group of stations.

Las Vegas’ sports offerings used to be the enticements dangled before gamblers at the sports books around town. These days, residents are wholly engrossed in the local pro sports scene. The Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL for the 2017-2018 season, and stunned everyone by making the Stanley Cup Finals.

“It’s a great media market and a great lifestyle market,” said Larry Strumwasser, general manager at KSNV. “It has become a great sports market, too.”

The Oakland Raiders relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. Other sports franchises may follow.

See Also:Vegas Wakes Up With the Wagners

The Golden Knights’ auspicious rookie year was just what Vegas needed following the mass murder at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on Oct. 1, 2017. Speaking for many residents, KLAS VP and general manager Lisa Howfield said: “I never thought I’d love hockey. But I do.”

Howfield ran KSNV for years and shifted to Nexstar Media Group-owned KLAS in 2015. Besides NBC affiliate KSNV, Sinclair Broadcast Group has The CW station KVCW, MyNetworkTValigned KVMY and the local Estrella TV station. Meredith owns Fox outlet KVVU and Scripps has ABC affiliate KTNV.

Cox is the primary pay TV operator. Las Vegas shifted from No. 40 to No. 39 in Nielsen’s market ranking.

Michael Korr was the KVVU general sales manager, and was promoted to VP/general manager in late January, after Todd Brown was upped to corporate. Korr said the sports scene is more than hockey and football. In March, NASCAR’s Pennzoil 400 happened, as did the USA Sevens Rugby championship and UFC 235.

The ratings race looks like an MMA bout. KVVU won the 6 a.m. derby in February and the 25-54 battle at 5 and 6 p.m., with KSNV winning 5 p.m. households and KLAS taking 6 p.m. HH. (KSNV tied KVVU in 25-54 at 6.) At 11 p.m., KVVU did a 2.8 HH and 1.5 in 25-54. KSNV got a 3.0 HH and 1.1 in the demo. KLAS was a 4.0 and 0.8 and KTNV did a 2.1 and 0.6. KLAS won prime.

The stations are hustling to get ahead. KTNV is “rebuilding the management team and evolving strategy,” VP and general manager Chris Way said. The station continues to “look after the little guy,” he added. “We’re doubling down on the notion of being advocates for people in our community.”

On April 27, KTNV gathers a flock of “health trucks,” providing medical assistance to those who need it.

KSNV added 10 p.m. weekend news and starts its morning news at 4 a.m. “Most of our anchors have been here a long time,” Strumwasser said. “People feel confident in our talent.”

KLAS renamed its morning news Good Day, and built new sets for news and lifestyle content, including 3 p.m. Las Vegas Now. Weekend sports show Game On! Vegas debuted March 31.

Howfield is a true product of Vegas, the daughter of a cocktail waitress and a blackjack dealer. Nexstar has been a boon for KLAS, she said, funding the new sets, pitching in after the shootings and sharing among its many stations. “Having those types of resources available to you is amazing,” she said.

KVVU has a hit with its lifestyle property, More, which airs at 9 a.m. Korr said some $20 billion worth of projects is in the works in Vegas. “The crane is our state bird,” he said.

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, Playboy and New York magazine.