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Market Eye: Battle-Tested, Back Again | @BCMikeMalone

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The twisters that leveled Moore, Okla., in May did a reported $2 billion in damage, and the psychological cost is immeasurable. But TV station chiefs in Oklahoma City say life is surprisingly back to normal: Homes being rebuilt, people going about their business, TV viewing back to where it was.

One hears the word “resilient” a lot when people describe residents. “Our promos talk about the resilience of Oklahomans: ‘The weather is tough, but our people are tougher,’” says Wes Milbourn, president and general manager at KFOR/KAUT. “We just keep fighting back, and fighting back harder.”

Wall-to-wall weather coverage means lost ad revenue, but the stations made some of it back from the auto dealers and furniture outlets as people replaced and rebuilt. “Recovery efforts and rebuilding does spur the economy a little bit,” says Rob Krier, general manager at KWTV and COO at parent Griffin Communications.

Griffin has stations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa; KWTV took the OKC revenue race last year, according to BIA/Kelsey, its estimated $31.3 million ahead of KFOR’s $29 million. “We market ourselves as Oklahoma’s Own,” says Krier. “We’ve always been here, and always been local.”

NBC affiliate KFOR had a huge May sweeps, winning total-day household ratings in DMA No. 41, along with morning, early evening and late news—the latter with an 11.4 household rating/17.7 share, just ahead of KWTV’s 11/17.2. KWTV won primetime.

KFOR will become part of Tribune when the company’s acquisition of Local TV is finalized. Milbourn does not see life changing drastically. “We’ve had a relationship with Tribune almost since the inception of Local TV,” he says.

Local TV also owns independent KAUT, which airs news at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Hearst Television has ABC affiliate KOCO. Sinclair owns Fox-CW duo KOKH-KOCB. Family Broadcasting Group’s KSBI took over the MyNetworkTV affiliation last year. The Spanish-language options include Tyler Media’s Telemundo station KTUZ and Univision affiliate KUOK. Cox is Oklahoma City’s main subscription TV operator.

KWTV and KFOR start their newscasts at 4 a.m. weekdays. KOCO this year promoted Bryan Keating to sports director and tapped Rebecca Gaylord of KOAT Albuquerque as news director. “Rebecca fits what we need in our newsroom and fits our brand: Live, Local, Late-Breaking,” says Brent Hensley, president/general manager.

KSBI, featuring one of the most eclectic local lineups in the nation (“Station to Station,” Nov. 19, 2012), debuts game show Wild Card at 6:30 weeknights in October. The station is doing Oklahoma Live! 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at the state fair this week, along with a live music show at 6.

“It’s TV the way it was in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, before the network did everything for you,” says Vince Orza, president/CEO of KSBI.

A revitalized downtown and world-class NBA team the Thunder have given people reasons other than severe weather to talk about Oklahoma City. There will be other tornadoes, but residents—and the news crews—are ready. “We seem to get more than our share,” says Krier, “but we’re pretty good at getting back on our feet.”

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.